US energy giant Chevron announced Wednesday it was shutting down operations at the Tamar offshore platform at Israel’s request, as Hamas said it targeted the natural gas field amid intensive fighting between Israel and the Gaza-ruling terror group.
“In accordance with instructions received from the Ministry of Energy, we have shut in and depressurized the Tamar platform,” a Chevron spokeswoman told S&P Global. “Chevron’s top priority is the safety of our personnel, our facilities, and the environment of the communities in which we operate.”
The spokeswoman added: “Chevron is closely monitoring the situation and focusing on the safe and reliable supply of gas for the benefit of the Israeli domestic market and to our regional customers.”
The Energy Ministry denied any connection between the shutdown and the Hamas statement. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz’s office said he gave the order to halt operations at Tamar on Tuesday as an “extra precaution.”
“The minister did so by virtue of his authority, after consulting with security officials and experts in the energy sector,” a statement from Steinitz’s office said.
His office also said “various steps have been taken to ensure the continuation of the gas supply to power plants for industrial factories throughout the country and there’s not expected to be any disruption of the power supply in Israel.”
“All the energy sector’s needs are being supplied in full,” it added.
The statements came as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said Wednesday it targeted a “Zionist gas platform” off Gaza.
The Chevron spokeswoman said operations were continuing at the larger Leviathan gas field off Israel’s northern shore. Tamar is 23 kilometers off (14 miles) the coast of Ashkelon, a southern city that has been pummeled by the ongoing rocket fire that killed two women on Tuesday.
“We are continuing to supply customers from Leviathan and are working with customers and the relevant regulatory bodies to ensure that gas supplies continue in a safe and reliable manner,” she said.
Israel has previously shuttered Tamar during fighting between the military and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. When Steinitz ordered operations to stop there in May 2019, Tamar was the country’s only operating natural gas source as Leviathan had not yet begun pumping gas, causing power stations to use other fuels to meet electricity demands.
The California-based Chevron owns a 39.66 percent share in Tamar through its acquisition of Noble Energy.
The Hamas announcement that it targeted Tamar came after a large tank in Ashkelon belonging to the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline was hit by a rocket; it has been on fire since, with firefighters working to douse the blaze. Israeli authorities have said there is no risk of dangerous chemicals being released into the air, but health officials have instructed residents of the area to remain inside and close their windows.
Over 1,000 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel since the outbreak of fighting on Monday evening, according to the IDF on Wednesday morning. Roughly 200 failed to clear the border and landed inside the enclave, the military said. IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said the Iron Dome air defense system had an interception rate of between 85 and 90 percent for rockets heading toward populated areas.
At least six people in Israel were killed — three on Wednesday and three on Tuesday — and dozens more injured in the rocket attacks from Gaza, some seriously, including a 5-year-old girl in critical condition.
In response to the rocket fire, the IDF launched strikes on upwards of 500 targets in the Gaza Strip, aimed at Hamas personnel, weaponry and infrastructure throughout the enclave.
According to the Strip’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, 53 Palestinians have died since Monday night, including 14 minors, and 320 have been wounded. The IDF said more than half of those killed were members of terror groups involved in the fighting and that some, including several of the children, were killed by errant rockets fired from Gaza that fell short of the border and landed inside the Strip, not by Israeli strikes.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.