JERUSALEM A massive oil spill from an unknown source has destroyed Mediterranean sea life and dumped tons of tar on more than 100 miles of coastline from Israel to southern Lebanon in what Israeli officials are calling one of the worst disasters. ecological ills in decades.
Shaul Goldstein, director of the Israels nature and parks authority, said the spill would trigger three decades of efforts to protect and restore biodiversity along the coastline.
I feel like I want to cry, said Mr. Goldstein, who has spent the last few days removing tar from the beaches. Everywhere everywhere, even four to five inches thick in some places.
Israeli authorities said they were investigating the cause of the spill, which the environment ministry said it only learned about when thick piles of tar appeared on beaches last Wednesday, prompting a major clean-up effort in an effort to mitigate the damage.
But much about the incident remains unclear because an Israeli court in Haifa issued a gag order, by government order, restricting the publication of many details about the case, including everything related to the methods of investigation, the parties involved in the investigation and any details that come from the investigation.
Yoni Shamir, a lawyer representing the government, told the court Tuesday that restrictions were needed to avoid undermining the investigation. In investigations into national security and criminal matters, it is not uncommon for courts to issue such gag orders.
Thousands of volunteers and hundreds of soldiers and police officers took part in the clean-up, which Mr Goldstein said he expected to last for at least a few months, especially in rocky areas where tar removal can be complicated.
On Tuesday, Israel announced it would invest millions of dollars in cleaning beaches and documenting the area of damage.
Last Thursday, a 55-foot-tall whale was left on a beach in the port city of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv. Veterinarians said they found black fluid in the whales’ lungs during an autopsy, but they did not conclusively link the animal’s death to the shed.
Environment Minister Gila Gamliel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the beach in Ashdod on Monday, where they walk with scattered pieces of tar.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said it had identified about 10 vessels as potential environmental suspects and said it believed it happened outside the territorial waters of Israel, approximately 31 miles off its coast.
Ms Gamliel said authorities would do everything possible to find the parties responsible for the spill and could sue the company that provided the ship responsible for it.
On Sunday, several government agencies warned Israelis against swimming in the ocean or resting or playing sports on the beach, stressing that exposure to tar could harm public health.
A small number of employees who worked for nature and parks authority were given extra oxygen because they experienced difficulty breathing after inhaling tar fumes while working to clean the beach, according to an agency spokesman.
Experts claimed the spill revealed weaknesses in Israel’s maritime security and indicated that authorities needed to step up efforts to monitor waters within its exclusive economic zone.
In Israel, we have a marine field blindness, said Shaul Chorev, a retired Admiral in the Sea of Israel who is now head of the Center for the Study of Maritime Policy and Strategy at Haifa Universities. Our activities are always focused on disrupting terrorist activities, but that is not the whole picture of maritime security.
Admiral Chorev said preventing future oil spills from reaching the coastline would not only require Israel to invest in satellites and other tracking equipment, but also designate a government body with clear responsibility for monitoring the coastline. for ecological disasters as well as their control.
Environmental activists warned that while the damage caused by the spill was considerable, a leak from one of the natural gas appliances off the coast of Israel could be even more devastating. Israel has invested heavily to develop natural gas fields off its coast and started exporting gas to Egypt in late 2019.
That should be a wake-up call, said Maya Jacobs, director of Zalul, an organization that advocates for the conservation of water bodies in and around Israel, which relies heavily on desalinated water. We need to increase rope oversight immediately and switch to the use of renewable energy.
In Lebanon, the prime minister’s office said the pitch reached the southern shores of the countries. He also claimed that the oil spill originated from an Israeli ship, but gave no evidence to support the claim.
Yasser al-Shanti, head of the Gaza Water Authority, said no oil had reached Gaza’s beaches, but that officials were monitoring the situation.
Moshiko Saadi, an environmental activist who spent Tuesday helping clean up a beach in northern Israel, said he was heartbroken by the ubiquity of the pitch.
So many people are cleaning and quickly filling the bag behind the bag, said Mr. Saadi But then look up and see that there are still large quantities everywhere. It makes you feel powerless.
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