(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israeli police closed off Highway 90 to the southern city of Eilat after an oil pipeline burst around 12 miles north of the city Thursday night, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil and prompting serious environmental concern for the entire area.
The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry described the spill as "one of the worst cases of pollution in the history of the state."
The pipeline is maintained by the Ashkelon-Eilat Pipeline Company. Three residents from Be'er Ora, 18 kilometers (12 miles) north of Eilat were in the vicinity when the spill occurred and were treated by medics for breathing difficulties.
The oil spill reached one of the most important nature reserves in the Arava area - the Evrona reserve - home to world's northernmost doum palm trees and a significant gazelle population. As of midnight Wednesday, response teams had succeeded in preventing the spill from reaching Jordan.
Firefighters and hazardous materials disposal experts quickly deployed to the spill area out of fears that a stray spark could set a large swath of land ablaze, and carried out preventative measures. Environmental Protection Ministry officials and air and sea pollution experts also arrived on scene to assess the damages.
The soil contaminated by the oil will not be usable again, and even after being dried out will have to be disposed of in specially designed landfills.