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February 21, 2021 3:13 pm

After Massive Oil Spill Pollutes Beaches, Israel Looks for Culprit and Calls for Switch to Natural Gas

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A clump of tar is seen on the sand after an offshore oil spill drenched much of Israel’s Mediterranean shoreline with tar, at a beach in Ashdod, southern Israel, February 21, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday for ships sailing the Mediterranean to switch to natural gas as fuel, after a massive Feb. 11 oil spill dumped tons of tar on the Israeli coast.

The Guardian reported Sunday that the tar coated Israel’s beaches and killed wildlife. Thousands of volunteers arrived on the coast to help with the cleanup, along with IDF soldiers.

Israel is searching for the ship responsible for the spill, using satellite images and wave models in order to do so. Israel may take legal action if and when the identity of the ship is discovered.

On Sunday, Netanyahu expressed appreciation of the “exemplary voluntarism” of those cleaning the beaches, and said the government will soon subsidize the effort.

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He said that to avoid such incidents in the future, he had proposed to visiting Egyptian officials that ships in the area should be “powered by natural gas instead of polluting fuel, as happened here.”

“I think that if several countries band together, within a few years we can bring about a great change, so that the sea, country, and beaches will be clean,” he said.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel also commented, saying that cleaning the beaches will cost tens of millions of shekels.

“We have the possibility of suing the insurance company of the ship that is responsible for the pollution and we will do everything to locate it,” she said. “Our moral obligation to the public is to locate those responsible for the event.”

“We need to look toward the future: This event and others like it in the world show us how urgent it is to wean ourselves from polluting fuels and move toward renewable energy,” she added.

Among the wildlife killed by the spill was a massive fin whale that washed up on an Israeli beach on Feb. 18. I24 News reported that the whale, which belongs to the second-largest species of whale in the world, was measured at 55 feet long.

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