Israeli Air Strikes Cause Major Oil Spill in the Mediterranean

The International Maritime Organization reported on August 2 that a massive combat-related oil spill in Lebanon has affected about one-third of that country’s coastline. On July 13 and 15, the environment was added to the list of mounting casualties in the region when Israeli air strikes hit a power utility in El-Jiye, a coastal village 30 kilometers south of Beirut, resulting in the spillage of some 10,000 tons of heavy fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea. Another 15,000 tons is expected to spill as the fuel tanks continue to leak. Some claim the incident to be the worst environmental disaster in Lebanon’s history.

Local fishermen, who were already suffering from the Israeli bombardment and blockade, face the possibility of widespread damage to near-shore fish populations. Experts say the number of birds affected by the spill is likely to be low, however, as the migratory season had recently ended. The slick is spreading out to sea and also threatens Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

While the Lebanese government has requested cleanup assistance from Jordan and Kuwait, the blockade has prevented a rapid response. The United Nations Environment Programme has begun to address the challenge via its affiliate, the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC). So far, however, the ongoing conflict has precluded any meaningful impact assessment of the true extent and long-term consequences of the disaster. A complete oil spill cleanup operation is expected to cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.