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Israel to receive compensation for massive oil spill

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Israelis clean tar off the Bat Yam beach following an offshore oil spill which polluted most of the Israeli coastline, March 2, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis clean tar off the Bat Yam beach following an offshore oil spill which polluted most of the Israeli coastline, March 2, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund approves Israel’s request to receive damages for the massive tar pollution caused to its beaches, following an oil leak in the Mediterranean Sea in February.

Evidence from an investigation by the Environmental Protection Ministry at the time indicated that the leak took place between February 1 and 2, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Israel’s shores, and came from a Syrian-owned ship, the Emerald, which, it subsequently emerged, was not insured.

Israel was taken by surprise on February 18 when tar began washing onto its Mediterranean coastline following stormy weather, along with the corpse of a fin whale some 17 meters (55 feet) long.

During the following days, it became clear that beaches from Rosh Hanikra in the far north to Nitzanim in the south had been contaminated and that wildlife had paid a heavy price.

The sale of Mediterranean fish was temporarily suspended and beaches were closed, with the first 17 reopening only on March 7. Thousands of volunteers rallied over many days to help with the cleanup. Officials dealing with marine issues said they could not remember an incident with such a wide geographical spread. The long-term damage to ecosystems still remains to be seen.

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