Damage assessment in south following Operation Pillar of Defense reveals at least four asbestos structures were hit by terrorists’ fire

Alphi Shauli
Published: 12.02.12

Damage assessment in Israel’s southern communities following Operation Pillar of Defense is ongoing, and the fighting’s environmental impact is slowly becoming clear.

The Tax Authority has so far received 1,240 claims over property damage to residential buildings, businesses and cars and the Treasury said the eight-day military campaign cost the Israeli market some NIS 3 billion (about $790 million).

Environmental impact reports are still pending, but so far assessors have found at least four asbestos structures that suffered direct hits by Gaza fire.

Asbestos is considered a hazardous material and is a known carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Ministry has been working to safely remove it from buildings nationwide.

One of the main problems with asbestos is that it is highly susceptible to impact and even the slightest damage to it can release millions of microscopic, toxic fibers into the air.

According to ministry inspectors, the areas adjacent to the damaged buildings already recorded high levels of asbestos pollution – far higher than the acceptable levels.

Removing asbestos is a delicate and costly procedure, which is why the government is overseeing all such projects.

“There are about 100 million square meters of asbestos across Israel, in private homes, schools and agricultural structures,” Tamar Bar-On, the director of the Hazardous Waste Division in the Environmental Protection Ministry, told Ynet.

Ministry protocols as to dealing with rocket-damage to such structures were put in place during the Second Lebanon War, she added.

“In case of a direct missile hit, we face the risk of widespread fibers. Those dealing with the environmental hazard must wear protective gear, the area must be cordoned off and various steps must be taken to minimize the fibers’ dispersion,” she explained.