Tel Aviv's popular Gordon Beach was closed to bathers on Monday due to leaking sewage, for the third time since the bathing season opened in May. The Health Ministry reported a sewage stain near the shore and warned the public not to enter the water.

The popular beach reopened only last weekend, after being closed to swimmers for two weeks.

The Health Ministry said Monday that the municipality appears to have failed to deal with the pollution source properly and ordered the beach closed indefinitely. The laboratory results regarding the pollution were not available by press time last night.

On two previous occasions fecal coliform bacteria were found in the water.

The Health Ministry told the city to find the pollution source in the draining pipe flowing into the sea near Gordon Beach and stop it.

But the city ruled out any illegal "hooking-up" to the main pipe and suggested the cooling water from the Herod Hotel's air conditioning system had caused the pollution.

Last Thursday, after the cooling-water pipe was diverted to the marina, where no swimming is allowed, the city reopened the beach.

"I expect the Tel Aviv municipality to find the illegal connections [to the pipe] and solve the problem," said Zeev Fish, the Health Ministry's national public health inspector.

A senior Tel Aviv city official, Ruby Zelof, said no sewage had leaked into the sea yesterday. The pollution probably resulted from hitches caused in operating the new cooling pipe to the marina.

He said the beach will likely reopen for swimming by the end of the week.

Many people ignored the black flags and Health Ministry warnings in recent weeks and swam in Gordon Beach, after city officials and the Gordon beach operator said the water was clean.

Beach operator Uri Stark said last week there was no pollution at all, and distributed flyers to people on the beach with lab results showing the water was clean.