Lebanese Oil Spill
2006-08-08
ISRAELI MINISTER OF DEFENSE CALLED TO GUARANTEE SAFETY OF LEBANESE OIL CLEAN UP

Tel-Aviv, 8 August 2006

While the loss of so many Lebanese and Israeli innocent lives remains justifiably the priority and center of attention, the environment too has become another unnecessary victim of the Israel - Hezbollah war.

The environmental destruction is serious in both Israel and Lebanon.

In Israel, a reported 600,000 trees have to date been burnt down in forest fires caused by Hezbollah Katyusha rockets falling on open areas in northern Israel. The loss of forests is not only the loss of trees but also of wildlife caught in the flames and habitat areas and nesting grounds burnt to the core. Courageous firefighters have not stopped for a moment, even in the midst of bombings, to put out as much of the fires as possible.
See:
http://www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/general2/data_card.php?U=no&SiteName=parks&ItemID=585087277&ValuePage=Card8
for photos of the fires.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, said; "Israelis heading north once a ceasefire takes hold will no longer recognize their country, due to such large tracts of forest now burnt down."

In Lebanon, however, the major environment disaster is the oil spill from the Jieh power plant, some 30 kilometers south of Beirut, which Israel bombed several weeks ago. An estimated 15,000-30,000 tons of heavy fuel oil were released in to the sea, and over the past weeks the oil slick has made its way north up the Lebanese coast, already reaching Syria, and if not cleaned up immediately, likely to reach Turkey and Cyprus. Unchecked, the oil spill threatens to be the greatest environment disaster ever in the Eastern Mediterranean.
See:
http://www.foeeurope.org/activities/oil_spill_lebanon/oil_spill_photos_page.html
for photos of the oil spill.

Lebanese environmentalists, with the help of the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Program, Mediterranean Action Plan, are reportedly planning a major clean up of the Lebanese coast this weekend. Materials have been brought in from Europe and hundreds of volunteers are planning to gather at the beaches of Lebanon to start the clean up.

"We are calling on the Israeli Minister of Defense to guarantee that the volunteers this weekend will be safe to start the long task of clean up", said Gidon Bromberg. "We are also calling for an investigation as to why the oil tanks were targeted in the first place, given that the environmental consequences were so predictable."

While earlier calls of Friends of the Earth Middle East for an immediate cease fire have been ignored, the group is hopeful that some sense will prevail to allow this clean up to take place.

For the latest satellite photo of the oil spill disaster:
http://www.zki.dlr.de/applications/2006/lebanon/lebanon_2006_en.html

For more information please contact:
Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director Friends of the Earth Middle East on +972-524532597