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Greenpeace tried to disrupt operation of the coal-powered electric plant in Ashkelon yesterday in protest at the proposed construction there of two additional coal-powered electric facilities. Greenpeace protesters chained themselves to the power plant's entrance gate, and some of the group entered the grounds. Police arrested 16 activists.

By law the public is allowed to submit objections to the plan, which is being advanced by the National Planning and Building Committee. Environmental groups and the Environmental Protection Ministry contend the proposed electricity plants will increase air pollution and lessen Israel's ability to meet its international obligation to reduce greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace in Israel official Nili Grossman said three groups of protesters were involved at yesterday's Ashkelon protest. "One of them climbed onto a mound of coal ash at the plant, where they put up protest signs," she said. "Four activists climbed onto a crane that is used to feed coal into the plant. They only came down several hours later, after negotiations with the police," she added.

Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have been engaged in a petition drive opposing the new coal-powered plants at the site, and Greenpeace has produced a film short on the issue featuring prominent Israeli entertainers.

The National Infrastructure Ministry and the Israel Electric Corporation, which operates the Ashkelon plant, refrained from commenting yesterday on the Greenpeace protest. In general, however, they have taken the position that the additional plants are necessary to ensure Israel's future electricity needs, especially at periods of peak demand. The state authorities have required that the new Ashkelon power plants install equipment to prevent air pollution, but that does not block the emission of greenhouse gases.