The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution asking Israel to pay Lebanon more than $850m in damages for an oil spill caused by an Israeli air force attack in its war against Hezbollah in 2006.
The resolution, which passed late on Friday, said “the environmental disaster” resulted in an oil slick that covered the entire Lebanese coastline and extended to the Syrian coastline, causing extensive pollution.
Israel has been asked by the UN to compensate Lebanon before but this was the first time a price was put on the damages.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion. The assembly voted 170-6 in favour, with three abstentions. Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, Micronesia and Marshall Islands voted “no”.
Israel’s UN mission said in a statement that the resolution was biased against Israel.
“Israel immediately responded to the oil slick incident by cooperating closely with the United Nations Environment Programme, as well as other UN agencies and NGOs, addressing the environmental situation along the coast of Lebanon,” the statement reads.
“This resolution has long outlived the effects of the oil slick, and serves no purpose other than to contribute to institutionalising an anti-Israel agenda at the UN.”
‘Prompt and adequate compensation’
The General Assembly acknowledged the conclusions in an August report by Ban Ki-moon, UN chief, that studies show the value of damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4m in 2014. It asked Israel to provide “prompt and adequate compensation”.
The General Assembly also asked Ban to urge UN bodies and other organisations involved in the initial assessment to conduct a further study, building on the work conducted by the World Bank, to measure and quantify the environmental damage sustained by neighbouring countries.
The resolution notes that “the secretary-general expressed grave concern at the lack of any acknowledgment on the part of the government of Israel of its responsibilities vis-a-vis reparations and compensation” to Lebanon and Syria for the oil spill.
It notes that Ban concluded that the spill is not covered by any international oil spill compensation funds and therefore recognises “that further consideration needs to be given to the option of security the relevant compensation from the government of Israel”.
Nawaf Salam, Lebanon’s UN ambassador, said his country considers the resolution to be “major progress” because it puts forward a figure for compensation, acknowledges the conclusions of Ban’s report, and reaffirms the General Assembly’s commitment to justice.
“We affirm that Lebanon will continue to mobilise all resources and resort to all legal means to see that this resolution is fully implemented, and that the specified compensation is paid promptly,” Salam said.