Lebanon Oil Spill Makes Animals Casualties of War

Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel
for National Geographic News
July 31, 2006

Add bluefin tuna and green turtles to the casualties in the Hezbollah- Israel conflict.

Green groups are calling an oil spill along Lebanon's Mediterranean shore the largest environmental crisis in the country's history.

The spill came after Israeli planes struck a Lebanese power plant, dumping 15,000 tons (13,600 metric tons) of oil into the eastern Mediterranean.

The massive spill has since spread along the length of Lebanon's coastline. Neighboring Syria has also reported oil spots on its beaches.

"Depending on the winds and sea currents, the spill could reach Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus," warned Wael Hmaidan of Lebanon's Green Line Association environmental group.

Hundreds of Lebanese and Israelis have been killed since fighting broke out on July 12.

The conflict erupted after Hezbollah militants abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack. (See a behind-the-scenes photo gallery of Hezbollah.)

The Israeli military responded with air, land, and sea attacks that have killed at least 500 Lebanese civilians and Hezbollah militants. At least 51 Israeli civilians and soldiers have been killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel.

In the first week of the conflict, Israeli fighter planes struck the Jiyyeh power plant about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Beirut (map of Lebanon).

The attack set ablaze five oil tanks and caused the massive spill along the eastern Mediterranean coast. One of the tanks continues to burn, and officials fear the fire could cause a sixth tank to explode.

Ecological Disaster

Lebanon's eastern Mediterranean coastline is an important marine environment.

Continued on Next Page >>


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