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Haifa mayor urges PM to move chemical plant threatened by Hezbollah

Yona Yahav says ammonia storage tanks, which Nasrallah boasted his group could target, are a ‘ticking time bomb’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Haifa's industrial area. (Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
Haifa's industrial area. (Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assist in protecting the industrial city from a “ticking time bomb” in the form of the city’s ammonia storage facility, which Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack last week.

“Several days ago we all witnessed Nasrallah’s speech in which he boasted that an attack on Haifa’s ammonia tanks would result in casualties equivalent to those that would be caused by a nuclear attack,” Yahav wrote in a letter to the prime minister.

“Approximately one million people live near this ticking time bomb,” he said, appealing to Netanyahu for his “personal intervention in the matter.

“Now is the time to act,” he urged.

Yahav said he has been trying to address the environmental and security threats surrounding the ammonia facility and an oil refinery since taking office in 2003. Last week he said wryly that he was “happy for [Nasrallah’s] help” in putting the issue on the agenda, “even if it comes from a frightened man hiding in his bunker.”

In his speech last week, Nasrallah claimed that while his group isn’t currently seeking war with Israel, it could defeat the Jewish state in a future conflict since Israel “feared” the group’s cache of rockets, which are capable of striking the northern city.

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav, July 2009 (photo credit: Shay Levy/Flash 90)
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav (Shay Levy/Flash 90)

“Our rockets combined with the ammonia storage facility in Haifa will create the effect of a nuclear weapon,” he claimed, boasting that such an attack would result in tens of thousands of fatalities.

Despite Hezbollah suffering significant losses in the Syrian civil war, Nasrallah asserted the Shiite terror group was continuing to boost its military capabilities along Lebanon’s border with Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses Lebanese TV viewers in a speech broadcast Tuesday, February 17, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses Lebanese TV viewers in a speech broadcast Tuesday, February 17, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)

Hours after Nasrallah issued the explicit threat on the Israeli city last Tuesday, Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbai said he had ordered that the ammonia storage facility be moved to the Negev desert.

The following day, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman agreed the storage facility needed to be moved, and told a Knesset committee his office was discussing options to move the facility to southern Israel.

The Environment Protection Ministry last week said plans to move the facility to the Negev were in the works, but did not provide additional details.

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