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Lebanon oil spill an environmental catastrophe

Israeli bombing kills hundreds, devastates environment

In its three-week unrelenting war on Lebanon, Israel has killed more than 835 Lebanese people and displaced over 750,000. This U.S.-funded human catastrophe has been compounded by the massive environmental disaster caused by Israel’s war.

On July 13 and 15, Israeli bombing raids hit the Jiyyeh power plant in south Lebanon, burning four of its six fuel tanks


Because of Israeli bombing, oil now covers much of Lebanon's coast.

and causing an enormous oil spill along the Lebanese coast. As many as 35,000 tons of heavy fuel oil seeped out from the bombed wreckage. It has become the worst environmental disaster in Lebanese history. (Spiegel Online, Aug. 1)

Lebanon’s environment ministry says a fifth tank containing approximately 25,000 tons of fuel is still on fire and in danger of leaking or exploding. The ministry worries that the sixth tank, which lies underground, will also explode soon. If this happens, it would greatly magnify the spill’s already catastrophic environmental consequences.

In an interview with the BBC, the ministry’s director general, Berj Hatjian, compared the oil slick to that caused by the Exxon Valdez tanker. When the tanker sank off the coast of Alaska in 1989, 40,000 tons of oil was released into the sea. The result was the worst ever maritime environmental disaster. Hundreds of thousands of animals died, and because the oil spill could not be completely cleaned up, animals are still being poisoned today.

The oil slick in Lebanon, which originally hit the beach of El-Baida, the only public beach in Beirut, now covers more than 50 miles of Lebanese coast. It has spread to the Syrian coastline in the north.

A 50-ton oil spill in Lebanon in 2003 took a full year to clean up. The 35,000-ton spill resulting from the Israeli bombing of the Jiyyeh plant is 700 times larger and may grow.

Byblos Bay, the oldest port city on earth, is completely smothered in oil.

U.S., Israel want destruction of Lebanon

The oil spill will have a devastating impact on the Mediterranean marine environment. The Lebanese coast is a critical site for fish spawning and sea turtle nesting, including the green turtle, an endangered species in the Mediterranean. In July, turtle eggs begin to hatch, and all baby turtles need to reach waters as soon as possible. With the oil slick in their way, they have little or no chance of making it.

In addition, the blue fin tuna, an important species for commercial fishermen in the Mediterranean, are present almost solely in the eastern Mediterranean at this time of year. But because part of the oil spill has settled on the sea floor, it threatens the blue fin tuna and many fishermen’s livelihoods.

The Lebanese coast, known for its beautiful white beaches, is an important tourist destination and source of income for the Lebanese tourist industry. The famous white beaches are now covered with a 10-foot black layer of oil, reeking with toxic fumes.

Promised equipment and expertise for the clean-up effort from outside Lebanon is threatened by continued Israeli air raids. Israel has already targeted ambulances and humanitarian aid trucks coming into Lebanon.

Other disastrous impacts on the environment caused by Israeli targeting of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure include severe air pollution from chemical spills resulting from Israeli bombing of industrial factories, fuel bunkers, and other flammable structures; the use of depleted uranium in Israeli bombs; and the huge waste and sanitation crises that result directly from the deliberate Israeli policy of destroying water and power supplies. The massive number of Lebanese who now live without clean water forebodes severe water pollution and the spread of disease.

The U.S.-backed Israeli destruction of Lebanon now includes annihilating Lebanon’s environment. Backed by the U.S. ruling class and paid for largely by U.S. tax dollars, Israel’s role as partner to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East is further exposed. Their joint objective is to gain control over the land and resources of the region, benefiting only the capitalist bosses. In their joint imperialist venture to redraw the map of the Middle East for their benefit, they show their utter disregard for human life and the environment.

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