April 20, 2105 BEIRUT: Israel must compensate Lebanon for the environmental destruction caused after it bombed a power plant during its 2006 invasion and sent more than 10,000 tons of oil into the sea, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Monday.

Speaking at a joint news conference alongside Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk and the U.N. resident coordinator for Lebanon Ross Mountain, Bassil urged the world body to invoke Chapter VII of its charter to oblige Israel to pay the $856.4 million that it owes Lebanon, according to a U.N. General Assembly decision passed in December.

Two of Lebanon’s oil storage tanks at the Jiyyeh power plant on Lebanon’s southern coast were targeted by Israeli war jets during the Jewish state’s 2006 summer invasion of Lebanon, which led to a massive oil slick in the Mediterranean Sea in one of the worst environmental catastrophes ever created.

Studies showed that between 12,000 and 15,000 tons of medium and heavy oil spilled into the sea.

The spill reached 150 kilometers of the Lebanese coast due to an Israeli-imposed siege that prevented quick intervention to contain it.

In response, the Environment Ministry formed a team of pollution experts in cooperation with a number of local and international marine pollution agencies and the EU to clean the sea in a process implemented in two stages, in 2007 and 2009, Machnouk said.

Almost nine years later, remnants of the spill – approximately 2,500 cubic meters of polluted sand, stones and wreckage – remain at the refineries of Tripoli and Zahrani and the power plants of Jiyyeh and Zouk, Machnouk said.

The remnants will be treated with a 2.2 million grant from the EU, Machnouk said, as part of a larger donation of 19 million euros aimed at preserving Lebanon’s maritime resources.

Mountain noted that U.N. agencies helped Lebanon battle the repercussions of the 2006 conflict on the delicate environment by offering support to the Environment Ministry to coordinate the cleaning projects.

The U.N. assessed the effects of the disaster in December 2006, Mountain said, while the U.N. Development Program offered legal analyses for the case to help other countries set the costs of the environmental damages on the Lebanese economy and offer an international legislative framework to ask for compensation.

Bassil described the disaster as an example of environmental terrorism with negative repercussions on Lebanon’s natural resources and biodiversity. Israel violated international law by causing a disaster that affected not only Lebanese civilians, but also the region surrounding them and is thus forced to make up for the costs of the pollution according to the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, he said.

The cost of the damage compensation, according to the U.N. resolution 69/212 supported by 170 states, is $856.4 million.

But since Israel is refusing to abide by the international decision, Bassil said, indirect and subsequent damages are adding to the main cost with time.

“We are facing today a resolution of the U.N. General Assembly that doesn’t have an executive branch but the decision has a moral power,” Bassil said. “And in order to make it binding, we need to address the Security Council under Chapter VII.”

Chapter VII of the U.N. charter authorizes the Security Council to use military and other types of force under certain circumstances.

But there is a risk of Israel not complying with a new U.N. decision again, and there is a risk of veto in case one of the member states uses its right of refusing such decision. “Another solution to force Israel to pay compensation is to address the International Court of Justice,” Bassil said. “But that requires recognizing a state of Israel, which is out of question.”

The minister said he is looking into the issue to find an applicable solution to propel Israel to pay for the damages.