Disastrous Oil Spill Off Israel's Shores Spreads to Lebanon

The Lebanese PM tasks key ministries with the follow-up, as Israeli officials continue to try to find those responsible for the spill

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A man shows tar on his hands in the aftermath of an oil spill that drenched much of the Mediterranean shoreline, in Tyre nature reserve
A man shows tar on his hands in the aftermath of an oil spill that drenched much of the Mediterranean shoreline, in Tyre nature reserveCredit: AZIZ TAHER/ REUTERS

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab said on Monday he was following up on an oil spill that may have originated from a ship passing near the Israeli coast and has now reached the southern shores of Lebanon.

Israeli officials said on Sunday they were trying to find the ship responsible for the spill that drenched much of its Mediterranean shoreline with tar, an environmental blow that will take months or years to clean up.

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Lebanon's Diab has tasked the defence minister, environment minister and the National Council for Scientific Research with the follow-up, a statement from his office said.

The sticky black deposits that showed up on Israeli beaches were visible on Monday on beaches in a nature reserve in Tyre, south Lebanon.

The United Nations interim forces in Lebanon will be informed to draw up an official report, the statement said.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry is investigating the cause of the oil spill, believed to have taken place between Feb. 6-10. On Monday, the ministry released a court-issued gag order on all details of the investigation into the party responsible. The Nature and Parks Authority has called it one of the country’s “worst ecological disasters” to date.

The ministry said it received no prior warning from any international organizations about the spill.

An acrid petroleum filled the air and a black streak at the high tide mark ran the length of the shore. It was just a tiny stretch of an oil slick that has coated almost the entire length of Israel’s 120-mile-long (195-kilometer) coastline.

On Sunday, the ministry urged Israelis to stay away from the beaches, citing serious health hazards posed by the tar. It has caused extensive damage to wildlife.

Thousands of volunteers took to the beaches in Israel over the weekend to help clean up the tar, and several were hospitalized after they inhaled toxic fumes. The military also deployed thousands of soldiers to assist in the operation.

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