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Israel widens search for oil spill culprit after ruling out ship in Greece

Israelis clean tar from the sand after a suspected oil spill off covered Israel's coast with tar on February 25, 2021 in Haifa, Israel [Amir Levy/Getty Images]
Israelis clean tar from the sand after a suspected oil spill off covered Israel's coast with tar on February 25, 2021 in Haifa, Israel [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

Israel on Sunday broadened its search for the ship behind an oil spill that blackened its beaches with tar after investigators ruled out one of the suspected tankers, reports Reuters.

An Israeli team, in coordination with Greek authorities, carried out a surprise inspection of the Minerva Helen while it was docked at Athens' Piraeus port. The ship is no longer suspected of being responsible for the spill, said Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Minerva Helen's operator had denied any connection to the oil spill.

Israel's investigation has focused on an unidentified ship that passed about 50 km (30 miles) off the coast on February 11 as the likely source of what environmental groups are calling an ecological disaster that could take years to clean up.

While thousands of volunteers and soldiers continued to clean the country's beaches from clumps of sticky black tar and save marine wildlife, Israel reiterated its determination to find those responsible.

Read: Oil spill off Israel coast reaches Lebanon's shores

The environment ministry, which has been working with European agencies, initially identified 10 ships for investigation. A number of these have since been ruled out and the ministry said it has broadened the search to include dozens of vessels.

"The oil spill had a source. We will not ignore the environmental crime and we will take every measure to locate the criminal," Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said.

The oil spill has also been washing up in southern Lebanon. On Friday, the office of the Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a statement that the ministers of defence, environment and administrative development, and the National Council for Scientific Research have been assigned to follow up on the issue.

According to the statement, "the sticky black deposits" that appeared on Israeli beaches have now reached a nature reserve in Tyre, southern Lebanon.

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Europe & RussiaGreeceIsraelLebanonMiddle EastNews
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