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Israeli team boards Greek ship in tar probe; new suspected slick seen off coast

Environmental Protection Ministry officials sent to Greece to investigate vessel suspected of causing massive oil spill and subsequent environmental disaster

Soldiers clean tar off the Palmachim beach following an offshore oil spill which drenched most of the Israeli coastline, February 22, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)`
Soldiers clean tar off the Palmachim beach following an offshore oil spill which drenched most of the Israeli coastline, February 22, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)`

The Environmental Protection Ministry on Saturday sent a team of investigators to Greece in order to examine a vessel suspected in an oil spill disaster that threw tons of sticky, black tar onto Israel’s beaches.

Israeli authorities believe a ship was responsible for the spill but failed to report it, and have been investigating to find the culprits.

Meanwhile, the ministry said Saturday that a second suspected oil slick had been identified some 150 kilometers west of Israel’s shores, but appeared to be moving away from them.

The ministry said the dark spot had been detected using Air Force drones, approved for use by Defense Minister Benny Gantz earlier Saturday at the ministry’s request.

A storm more than a week ago threw tons of sticky, black tar onto Israel’s beaches, which apparently leaked from a ship.

Reports of the pollution emerged when a dead 17-meter (56-foot) baby fin whale washed up on Israel’s southern coast, along with other wildlife.

Israelis stand around a 17-meter fin whale washed ashore on the Nitzanim beach, near the city of Ashkelon, February 19, 2021. (Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

These were then followed by tons upon tons of the black substance smearing beaches along 160 kilometers (100 miles) out of the country’s 195 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline, prompting the government to order Israelis away from the areas.

Some experts have called the spill the worst environmental disaster to hit the country’s beaches in decades.

A massive cleanup operation was launched, with thousands of Israelis volunteering to help clean up the shoreline, alongside workers of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and even IDF soldiers.

Israeli soldiers clean tar off the Palmachim beach in central Israel following an offshore oil spill, February 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Wednesday, as the cleanup gathered pace, the Health Ministry ordered a precautionary ban on the sale of fish and other seafood from the Mediterranean.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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