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A Haifa magistrate’s court has issued an order prohibiting the publication of any details relating to the ongoing investigation by Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection's Marine Environmental Protection Unit into a major oil spill which has hit over 100 miles of the country’s Mediterranean coastline.

In a statement issued today, the Ministry said that the gagging order will be in place until 28 February and it will cover ‘anything that could identify the suspects, including the name of the vessel, ports of departure and destination, cargo, and shipping lane’.

Considerable quantities of tar began to wash up on beaches last Wednesday (17 February) following stormy weather conditions.

A massive clean-up operation has been launched involving around 4,000 volunteers. The tar is reported to be in a solid or semi-solid state and is having to be removed manually.

The Ministries of Environmental Protection, the Interior, and Health have asked the general public to avoid going to beaches from Rosh Hanikra, in the north of the country, down to Zikim Beach in the Hof Ashkelon Coastal Council. until further notice.

In its statement today, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said the tar ‘is likely the result of an unreported oil spill off the sea's coast, and it has led to an environmental disaster’.

With further stormy weather forecast for tomorrow (23 February), there is concern that the tar deposits could spread to other beaches.

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