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March 15, 2016 4:05 pm

IDF Officer: Hezbollah Attack on Haifa Ammonia Tanks Not an ‘Atomic Bomb’ Scenario, Despite Nasrallah Claims, Threats

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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A view of Haifa from the port. Photo: Wikipedia.

A view of Haifa from the port. Photo: Wikipedia.

A senior IDF officer recently addressed threats made by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah against the ammonia storage facility in Haifa Bay, the Israeli business website Globes reported on Tuesday.

“Even in the worst case, a missile strike on the ammonia tanks will not be disastrous,” the officer asserted. “Certainly, there is no ‘atomic bomb’ scenario like Hezbollah threatened.”

He also said that the Home Front Command is constantly monitoring the security of the Haifa facility and is prepared for a wide range of scenarios “based on the arsenal available to the enemy, its aims, our response, the protective measures for the tank, and our interception capabilities.”

The worst-case scenario, according to the officer, would be a surprise Hezbollah attack, using a 100-kilogram warhead to directly target the facility. But even then, he said, assuming the facility has a full tank containing 12,000 tons of ammonia, and a leak is carried by the wind towards residential neighborhoods, “[I]t would require several minutes of exposure to the ammonia cloud before any injury is irreversible. Anyone who finds shelter – such as in a house or a car – within ten minutes will not suffer serious injury. There will mostly be cases of burns and nausea. People will be hurt, but it is doubtful they will number in the dozens; there will not be hundreds of casualties, and there will definitely not be mass casualties.”

The IDF officer added that if need be, the tank’s ammonia could be emptied or significantly reduced. It would also be possible to issue an early warning system and a missile interceptor in the area, according to Globes.

During a televised address in February, Nasrallah threatened to strike those tanks with a missile. He said, “Hezbollah has a ‘nuclear bomb’ — Haifa has 15 tons of ammonia, and any Hezbollah missile attack will turn them into a nuclear bomb that would cause the deaths of tens of thousands.”

The ammonia tanks serve Haifa Chemicals, which imports the substance, uses it for manufacturing processes and provides ammonia to clients in the industrial field. Environmental groups previously called for removal of the tanks, citing their ecological dangers. Globes reported that the Ministry of Environmental Protection already announced intentions to close the storage facility and establish a new ammonia production space at the Mishor Rotem Industrial Zone in the Negev.

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