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Major Oil Spill in Lebanese Waters

Reported by Marie Therese - July 29, 2006 -

Al Jazeera is reporting today that, as the result of the July 13 & 15 Israeli bombings of storage towers at a Beirut power plant and, possibly, also as the result of a Hezbollah rocket attack on an Israeli ship, 30,000 tons of oil has been released into the Mediterranean, causing an immediate ecological crisis. The oil is fouling 110 kilometers of the world-renowned beaches and coastline of Lebanon. Despite the fact that enviromental experts acknowledge that quick response is the best approach to such a spill, the Israeli blockade and unrelenting bombardment of Beirut has prevented that from happening.

Yacoub al-Sarraf, the Lebanese environment minister, said: "We have never seen a spill like this in the history of Lebanon. It is a major catastrophe.

"The equipment we have is for minor spills. We use it once in a blue moon to clean a small spill of 50 tonnes or so. To clean this whole thing up we would need an armada."

The EU commission said the Lebanese authorities had asked for "urgent" assistance to clean up the oil.

Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, said: "Wars do cause enormous human suffering as we are witnessing now in Lebanon. But another aspect is also the significant environmental destruction caused by it.

"[The spill] could affect the livelihood and health of the Lebanese and people in neighbouring countries as well as the status of the marine environment in the region."

The government has also asked the UN environmental protection agency to assist in the clean-up operation.

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Sarraf said: "To really clean it up we need access to the sea, which we don't have.

"We need more equipment and mobilisation but for that we need the hostilities to end."

Local environmentalists say the marine ecosystem could take years to recover.(Source: Al Jazeera, 7-29-06)

FOX News, so far*, has not informed its viewers of this disaster, preferring to report the complexities of this conflict as if it was a Saturday morning cartoon show entitled "Big Bombs Go Boom-Boom, Go Israel Go!"

For its part, Israel today rejected calls for a three-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach victims of the invasion.


* UPDATE: When I first posted this, I had not yet watched my tape of the two-hour Cost of Freedom show. Upon viewing it, I noticed that FOX News' Greg Burke mentioned that 15,000 tons of oil had spilled. Additionally, several people have noted that the story was mentioned at least two more times during the day. - Marie Therese, July 30, 2006, 2:18 AM EDT