November 6, 2006 – Israelis need to know environmental costs of war with Hezbollah

Israeli government must follow Lebanon and ask UN to assess environmental damage of Hezbollah-Israel war

EcoPeace Middle East / Friends of the Earth Europe

Beirut/Brussels/Tel Aviv, 6 November 2006

EcoPeace Middle East and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) today called on the Israeli government to finally ask the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to assess in Israel the environmental impacts of the recent war between the Lebanese Hezbollah group and the Israeli army.

The appeal by the two organisations came as the United Nations marks today the “International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict”. [1]

In September, Lebanon asked UNEP to send a team from its “Post-Conflict Branch” to assess the environmental consequences of the July 12th -August 14th war, in which more than 1,300 people were killed and thousands more injured on both sides of the border. [2]

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace, said in Tel Aviv, “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apparently doesn”t want people to know all the consequences of a senseless war. The Israeli government must stop dragging its feet and finally ask UNEP to send a team from its Post-Conflict Branch to northern Israel and assess the environmental damage there. The environmental impacts of the Hezbollah-Israel war need to be investigated by a professional and politically independent team.”

FoEE director Fouad Hamdan said in Brussels, “Documenting the consequences of war on the shared marine environment of Lebanon and Israel would highlight the loss to both nations. This would hopefully dissuade Hezbollah and Israel from recommencing the fighting, which could happen any day since the political causes of the war are still unresolved. An independent investigation of the environmental impact of the war will remove emotions and politics from the issue of environmental protection.”

At least 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil was released into the Mediterranean Sea when Israeli warplanes bombed the Jieh power plant south of Beirut in mid-July. Most of the Lebanese coast and many areas in Syria have been polluted.

It is likely that the coast of Israel will be polluted, too, when currents change direction this winter and wash ashore from the sea bed hardened oil pieces.

In addition to the oil catastrophe, Hezbollah missiles and Israeli bombing led to hundreds of fires destroying large forest areas in both countries. In Israel, more then half a million trees have been burnt in hundreds of fires.

EcoPeace Middle East and Friends of the Earth Europe demand that current reforestation projects in northern Israel be supported by the international community and that a planning for reforestation start as soon as possible in Lebanon.

For more information please contact:

· Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, T +972 52 4532597, [email protected] (spoken languages: English and Hebrew)

· Fouad Hamdan, Director Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels, Tel +32 2 5420183, Mob +32 485 656675, [email protected] (spoken languages: Arabic, English, French and German)

· Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe, T +32 2 5426105, Mob +32 485 930515, [email protected] (spoken language: English)

NOTES:
[1] http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/environment_war/index.html

[2] Around 20 experts from UNEP spent two weeks with Lebanese environmentalists from the beginning of October, evaluating the impact on the environment of the July-August war. The experts tested air, water and soil samples at some 75 heavily bombarded sites in South Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut, said Boutros Harb, UNEP director for Asia and the Middle East. “Their report will be made public on November 29 in Beirut,” Hamzeh was quoted by the Lebanese Daily Star as saying. See: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=76552

MORE INFO:
– UNEP’s Post-Conflict Branch (PCoB): http://postconflict.unep.ch/index.php

– Friends of the Earth Europe – updates on the environmental impact of the Hezbollah-Israel war

– EcoPeace Middle East: http://www.ecopeaceme.org