Israel Says Iran Is Behind Major Oil Spill, Accusing Tehran of ‘Environmental Terrorism’ – Haaretz

Israeli minister claims Libyan-owned tanker that sailed out of Iran is responsible for massive pollution of Mediterranean coastline, while Israeli intel officials say statement caught them by surprise

The suspected ship, Emerald, at sea.
The suspected ship, Emerald, at sea.Credit: Graham Flett/

Zafrir Rinat Mar. 3, 2021

Israel on Wednesday accused Iran of “environmental terrorism,” blaming Tehran for the worst oil spill in Israel’s history in mid-February.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said authorities have identified a Libyan-owned oil tanker, Emerald, which set sail from Iran in January and is currently back there. She claimed the Panamanian-flagged ship turned off its radio transponder after sailing through the Suez Canal and before entering Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

After allegedly polluting the water off Israel’s coast on February 1-2, it then continued its journey towards Syria where it drifted several more days off Latakia, before supposedly returning to Iran.

Emerald track after leaving Suez Canal, shutting transponder, sailing to Syria coast via Israeli EEZ, loitering there for several days and later returning to Suez Canal
Emerald track after leaving Suez Canal, shutting transponder, sailing to Syria coast via Israeli EEZ, loitering there for several days and later returning to Suez CanalCredit:

Those responsible for the pollution “must pay the price,” Gamliel said. “The operator of the ship has black blood on their hands.” 

“Iran is [conducting] terrorism by damaging the environment, and [when] Iran is damaging the environment it isn’t just hurting the state of Israel,” she said.

The ministry presented what it said was strong “circumstantial evidence” that this was the ship behind the spill, though it did not have “forensic evidence.” It said it also ruled out any other source.

The Israeli military and intelligence agencies weren’t aware of the minister’s claims before she presented them in a press briefing, which officials said caught them by surprise. Israeli intelligence and navy weren’t involved in the investigation, and the Environmental Protection Ministry didn’t reach out to them for help.

Officials at Gamliel’s ministry later said that “there’s high probability this isn’t a terror [incident].”

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

The ship-tracking website listed the owner of the Emerald as the General National Maritime Transport Co. The company, which describes itself as Libyan state-owned with a fleet of 22 vessels, did not respond to messages left after working hours.

The oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea during a cleanup operation at Sharon Beach Nature Reserve in Israel, last month
The oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea during a cleanup operation at Sharon Beach Nature Reserve in Israel, last monthCredit: Ariel Schalit,AP

But the UN-run International Maritime Organization said that as of late December 2020 the Emerald came under new ownership. It lists the active owner as Emerald Marine Ltd., which is registered in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands Maritime and Corporate Administrators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

An estimated 1,000 tons of black tar from the leak washed up on over 90 percent of the country’s 195 kilometer (120 mile) coastline. The government is awaiting the results of water quality testing before potentially reopening some beaches, which remain closed along the coast. 

Cleanup of a Haifa beach following the unreported oil spill that polluted the coast last month.
Cleanup of a Haifa beach following the unreported oil spill that polluted the coast last month.Credit: Rami Shllush

Water samples from various points along the coast were taken for analysis soon after the oil began washing up. 

After the pollution was first spotted on February 17, the Environmental Protection Ministry said the most likely source of the oil was an unreported spill of perhaps dozens of tons of oil from a tanker. The ministry has not yet disclosed the type of oil involved, but researchers from Hebrew University’s Hermann Institute of Earth Sciences who collected samples of the tar said that they believe it is from crude oil.

The ministry identified roughly 10 ships in the region as possible culprits. Subsequently the names of dozens of other ships were added to the list. The list of suspected ships was again narrowed to about 10 with assistance from foreign officials.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said Sunday that the Minerva Helen, a Greek tanker, had been cleared of suspicion for the oil spill, following an inspection of the ship.

A team of Israeli investigators from the ministry’s marine environment protection division examined the tanker anchored at the port of Piraeus, on Saturday.

The ministry said that, following a “meticulous, professional and comprehensive” investigation carried out in cooperation with the authorities in Greece and without advance notice to the ship’s operators, it was ruled out the ship as the source of the spill.

Yaniv Kubovich, Amos Harel, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


Israel: Massive oil spill off coast caused by Libyan ship sailing from Iran to Syria – YNET

Environmental protection minister calls incident ‘environmental terrorism’, says those responsible for Feb. 11 ecological disaster ‘must pay the price’ for harm to Israeli nature and animals

Ilana Curiel, News Agencies |

03.03.21 , 20:35

The recent oil spill off Israel’s shores that caused massive ecological damage was caused by a Libyan ship sailing from Iran to Syria, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said on Wednesday, describing the incident as “environmental terrorism.”

The country’s investigation had focused on an unidentified ship that passed about 50 km (30 miles) off the coast on Feb. 11 as the likely source of what environmentalist groups are calling an ecological disaster that could take years to clean up.

שילמו בחייהם. צבים שנפגעו מהזפת בחוף דור

“This pollution has an address,” said Gamliel on Wednesday. “Those who are responsible must pay the price. Our nature has been harmed. Our animals have been slaughtered as a result of a ruthless environmental criminal,” she said. “There is definitely someone who wanted to cause harm. Either the pollution was done intentionally in the first place or was caused by an unreported malfunction. A ship was sailing dozens of kilometers off the Israeli coast in our exclusive economic zone,” Gamliel said.

“This is a crude oil tanker named Emerald, Libyan owned and operated, which carried cargo, in a pirated manner, from Iran to Syria. The ship flies the Panamanian flag,” the minister said.

“Iran is waging terrorism not only by trying to arm itself with nuclear weapons or to establish itself on our borders. Iran is waging terrorism by harming the environment. Our fight for nature and animals should be cross-border. “Together, we will consider the person responsible for environmental terrorism who committed a crime against humanity. We will continue to rehabilitate the damaged beaches and animals that were harmed. Together we will triumph and remove pollution from our country’s shores.”

בנימין נתניהו וגילה גמליאל בחוף הים באשדוד

The Environmental Protection Ministry said it had collected strong “circumstantial evidence” that this was the ship behind the spill, though it did not have “forensic evidence”.

It said it also ruled out any other source.Israeli security sources said Wednesday evening that they were surprised by the announcement by Gamliel and they had not been involved in the investigation. They said, however, that if Gamliel’s claims are found to be true, it may indicate Iran’s intent to exact revenge for the killing of its chief nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November, which it blamed on Israel.

The vessel sailed through the Gulf and the Red Sea without radio contact, switching its tracking devices back on before passing through Egypt’s Suez Canal, Gamliel told reporters.

It turned the devices off again before entering Israeli waters in the eastern Mediterranean, and dropped oil into the sea between Feb. 1-2, she saidGamliel said the Emerald turned its tracking devices back on again upon reaching Syria on Feb. 3, where she said it unloaded crude oil. It then returned to Iran, where it is currently anchored, she said.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed the vessel reported a destination of Sohar in Oman, across the Gulf of Oman from Iran, on Jan. 20, meaning it was around Iran’s coast at that time.

The ship tracking data did not show any destinations in Iran, though it is common for vessels to conceal their movements there.

הזפת שנסחפה לחוף פולג

The vessel reported its position after passing through the Suez Canal on Feb. 1, Refinitiv data showed. It next reported its position with a destination of Mersin in Turkey on Feb. 3, showing a gap between Feb. 1 and 3.

The vessel did not report any destinations in Syria, though it is also common for ships to conceal movements there.An international convention requires merchant ships to have a satellite tracking device on board when travelling at sea. But a ship’s captain has the discretion to switch the transponder off under certain circumstances, enabling them to avoid detection.Clumps of sticky black tar from the spill have also washed up on the coasts of south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

While thousands of volunteers and soldiers continued to clean the country’s beaches from clumps of sticky black tar and save marine wildlife, Israel reiterated its determination to find those responsible.

מנקים את החוף סמוך לחדרה

The Environmental Protection Ministry, which has been working with European agencies, initially identified 10 ships for investigation. “The oil spill had a source. We will not ignore the environmental crime and we will take every measure to locate the criminal,” Gamliel said last week.

On Saturday the Israeli Air Force confirmed it had detected another suspected oil spill making its way towards the Israeli shore 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the coast. IAF aircraft were dispatched at the request of the Environmental Protection Ministry, which had come under fire for failing to identify the ecological threat posed by the spill earlier in the month and to protect the shoreline from its effects.


Greenpeace: Iran eco-terror allegation ‘reeks of election propaganda’ – Jerusalem Post

The practice of turning off tracking systems is commonly done by Iranian vessels to avoid detection for violating the trade embargo with Syria.

By IDAN ZONSHINE   MARCH 4, 2021 18:42

Satellite imaging tracks the known movements of the Iranian Romina tanker before the oil spill which caused Israel's ecological disaster. (photo credit: GREENPEACE)
Satellite imaging tracks the known movements of the Iranian Romina tanker before the oil spill which caused Israel’s ecological disaster. (photo credit: GREENPEACE)

Greenpeace Israel released a statement on Thursday dismissing Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel’s recent claim that Iranian “eco-terrorism” was the cause of Israel’s recent ecological disaster, claiming that it is irresponsible, lacks concrete evidence and “reeks of election propaganda.”

While Greenpeace said that the Libyan oil tanker Emerald could very well be responsible for the spill, and that it could even be an act of terror, the organization said that not enough evidence has been gathered to determine either, adding that making such a determination at this point without having sufficient evidence is irresponsible.

“Gamliel’s accusation that the tar crime on the shores of Israel is an ‘act of terrorism by Iran’ is scandalous and lacks a factual basis at this stage.” The statement said. The environmental activist group added that her accusation takes focus away from a more pressing environmental problem, saying that “the minister underestimates the well-known and widespread phenomenon of destructive sea pollution from oil spills by ships. 

“The minister’s conduct on the issue reeks of election propaganda and an attempt to amass political capital at the expense of this severe ecological disaster, while harming Israel’s credibility on the international stage and in particular the credibility of the Ministry of Environmental Protection,” Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace Israel, in collaboration with the investigation unit of Greenpeace Germany and the Greenpeace International Mapping Unit, began an independent investigation into the ecological crime, after the Environmental Protection Ministry made a request at the beginning of the investigation into the “tar disaster” to impose an embargo on its details.

Greenpeace did so in order to prevent a potential government cover-up of the case and to make sure that there is reliable public information on the subject being published on behalf of an independent body with extensive experience in such events.


Mediterranean oil spill is ‘eco-terrorism’ by Iran, Israel says- Jerusalem Post

Sources in the defense establishment said they were not familiar with Gamliel’s claim that the oil spill was the result of terrorism

A dead bird is inspected by volunteers after several tons of tar which floated onto Israel's shores from an unknown source have already caused massive damage to local wildlife. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
A dead bird is inspected by volunteers after several tons of tar which floated onto Israel’s shores from an unknown source have already caused massive damage to local wildlife. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Iran intentionally polluted the Mediterranean Sea and Israel’s shores in an act of ecological terrorism, causing the greatest environmental disaster in Israel’s history, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said on Wednesday.“This pollution has people who are responsible for it and have to pay the price. Our nature is damaged, our animals are harmed, thanks to merciless environmental criminals,” Gamliel said.

Gamliel explained that, following a two-week investigation, the Environmental Protection Ministry found that the ship that leaked the crude oil, called the Emerald, was owned by a Libyan company and sailed from Iran to Syria. It departed Iran, turning off its automatic identification system (AIS) – which transmits its location to other ships in the area. It turned the AIS on as it went through the Suez Canal, and then off again as it approached Israel’s shores.

The ship remained within tens of kilometers of Israel’s shores, within Israel’s economic waters, for nearly a full day, spilling large amounts of oil on February 1-2, with its AIS off.

Then it continued on to Syria, where it turned on its transmitter, and it returned to Iran, turning off its AIS as it passed Israel. It is currently in Iran.

The tar reached Israeli shores on February 17.

“Now we see Iran is not just terrorizing [Israel] with [attempts at attaining] nuclear weapons and entrenching itself in our region, but also by harming the environment,” Gamliel said. “They’re not just hurting Israel. Nature and animals don’t just belong to one nation. This is a battle that crosses borders.”

Gamliel said that Israel will demand compensation from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund and the ship’s insurers.“We will settle the score with the polluters in the name of all Israelis for the harm to our health, nature, animals and view,” she vowed. “We cannot abandon our sea. Our sea is our natural treasure that we must protect.”

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the European Maritime Safety Agency, as well as Israeli maritime research company Windward, helped the Environmental Protection Ministry investigate the oil spill. None of the agencies knew about the oil spill before the tar reached Israeli shores, over two weeks after it occurred.

Samples of the tar, which the Environmental Protection Ministry examined, showed that it came from crude oil, which sharply reduced the number of suspected ships from 35 to four. Two were found to have been too far away, and another was examined by local authorities in Spain and by Israeli investigators in Greece. The fourth is the Emerald, currently in Iran.European satellites caught the underwater stain on February 5, but it was not noticed before the tar reached Israel’s beaches.

Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.


Israel Accuses Iran of ‘Environmental Terrorism’ after Oil Spill – Naharnet

by Naharnet Newsdesk

Israel on Wednesday accused Iran of “environmental terrorism” after a devastating oil spill off its Mediterranean coast it said was perpetrated by a Libyan-flagged ship that set sail from Iran.

Storms last month washed tons of sticky tar ashore along Israel’s entire Mediterranean coastline, staining 160 kilometers of beach from its borders with the Gaza Strip to Lebanon.

“A Libyan-flagged pirate ship that departed from Iran was responsible,” Israel’s environment protection minister Gila Gamliel said on Twitter.

“Iran is waging terrorism by harming the environment,” she said, calling the spill “not just an environmental crime but environmental terrorism.”

Gamliel is a staunch ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose hardline stance against Iran is a key part of his re-election campaign ahead of polls later this month.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan, citing anonymous sources, said the intelligence community did not share the minister’s assessment.

Gamliel told reporters that the ship responsible had “entered Israel’s exclusive economic zone and deliberately polluted” the waters.

“Our long arm will reach anyone who harms our nature, our sea or our coasts,” Gamliel warned.

– Ecological disaster –

The accusation comes after Israel accused Iran of a recent attack late last month on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman, further raising tensions between the arch foes.

Iran has denied any role in the explosion that hit the MV Helios Ray, leaving two holes in its side but causing no casualties.

The latest escalation between the arch-rivals also comes as the international community tries to salvage the troubled 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel has declared last month’s oil spill as one of its worst ecological disasters in recent history.

Volunteers have teamed up with authorities to clean the beaches, while officials from the environmental protection ministry launched an investigation into the source of the spill.

Workers, including soldiers on loan from the army, are trying to scoop up the tar debris before warmer weather makes the sticky oil diffuse into the sand.

Oil also washed up on southern Lebanon, where thick tar balls hit a swathe of coastline which includes some of the country’s best preserved beaches.

The area includes a maritime reserve which hosts a nesting site for turtles which usually appear later in the year.

As well as endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles, the beach provides shelter for the Arabian spiny mouse.

Mask-clad volunteers and members of the civil defense have been sifting blobs of tar out of sand on the beach of the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve.

Mouin Hamze, the head of Lebanon’s National Council for Scientific Research, last week said he feared the oil pollution could continue washing up on Lebanese shores for up to three months.


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