Oil spill mystery off Israel and Lebanon

Not only are we no closer to knowing the identity of the vessel presumed to be responsible for tar balls washing up along 120km of Israel’s Mediterranean coast, and now in southern Lebanon as well, but Israel appears to be keen to prevent any further information leaking out, for at least a week.

A court in Haifa placed a seven-day gagging order on the investigation into the spill. The court put out the order after some Israeli news outlets reported the name of a ship suspected of dumping the oil.

Environmental protection minister Gila Gamliel said that the ministry is investigating the possibility that the pollution – believed to be about 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel – was carried out purposely for malicious reasons.

“They either spilled the oil from the ship into the water or a malfunction occurred and they didn’t report it,” said Gamliel. “Finding those responsible for the disaster is a complicated process, but we will do everything in our power to find those culpable.”

Satellite images of ships that passed through the area are being reviewed. The EU monitors the location of oil slicks in the Mediterranean using information from a network of weather satellites. Ocean currents and weather data can then be “reverse engineered” to track the source of oil leaks.