The London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund on Thursday approved Israel’s claim for damages for the massive tar pollution that blanketed its beaches in February, following a an oil spill from a Syrian ship, the Emerald, into the Mediterranean Sea.

The decision was taken unanimously during the semi-annual executive committee of the fund.

The amount has not yet been determined. The next step will be to determine who will receive the compensation, how much and what will be the schedule.

“Israel will be compensated for the tar disaster, on the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg said,

She added that the significant damage to the environment and marine life underscored the ministry’s position that the world should act as quickly as possible to replace fossil fuels such as petroleum with renewable energy sources.

Marine vets take samples from a 17-meter-long fin whale washed up on Nitzanim Beach, near the town of Ashkelon, on February 21, 2021. (Flash90)

Israel was taken by surprise on February 18, when tar began to spill over its Mediterranean coastline following stormy weather, with the corpse of a fin whale about 17 meters (55 feet) long .

Over the next few days, it became clear that the beaches, from Rosh Hanikra in the far north to Nitzanim in the south, had been contaminated and that wildlife had paid a heavy price.

Evidence from an investigation by the Environmental Protection Department at the time indicated that the spill of tens of tons of crude oil occurred between February 1 and February 2, some 130 kilometers (80 miles ) at sea and came from the Syrian tanker Emerald. , which was not insured.

Israel and the chairman of the compensation fund agreed that the oil was apparently dumped into the sea on purpose while cleaning the oil barrels on board, according to a ministry statement.

Israel was represented at Thursday’s meeting by Rani Amir, who heads the Ministry’s National Unit for Marine Environmental Protection, and Zvi Shapira of the Shipping and Ports Administration.

States can either sue shipowners’ insurers or, if this does not bear fruit, appeal to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

British expert takes tar samples from a beach for detailed analysis as Israel prepares to sue the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund over a catastrophic oil spill into the Mediterranean Sea in February 2021. (Ministry of Environmental Protection)

Documentation presented to the fund included tar samples taken from Israeli beaches, results from the Environment Ministry probe, marine modeling performed by Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, a government non-profit company, and data. satellite.

Following the leak, the sale of Mediterranean fish was temporarily suspended and beaches were closed, with the first 17 not reopening until March 7. Thousands of volunteers gathered for several days to help with the cleanup.

Maritime officials said they could not recall an incident of such a geographic extent. The long-term damage to ecosystems remains to be seen.

Israeli soldiers arrive to clean up the contaminated Sharon Beach National Park north of Tel Aviv on February 22, 2021 (Jack Guez / AFP)

In March, then Environment Minister Gila Gamliel suggested the incident was an act of “environmental terrorism” orchestrated by Iran.

His assessment was not shared by security officials, however. An anonymous senior security official told Kan News that Iran does not appear to be directly involved.

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