Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel warned on Wednesday of a catastrophic event in the Haifa Port chemical deposits a day after a massive blast shook the Lebanese capital of Beirut in an event believed to have stemmed from similar storage units.
The Likud minister said she has been warning about the potential dangers of the Haifa Port chemical facilities since she entered office in May. Gamliel added she is promoting a plan that will see all chemical depots moved out of the Haifa metropolitan area within five years.
"The problem is that there is a very concentrated population in the area, placing factories with dangerous substances there could be life-threatening," said Gamliel. "The plan I am promoting will see to all facilities and hazardous materials removed from Haifa."
The Ministry of Environmental Protection and the defense apparatus are monitoring the port, but there could also be an accident due to negligence or, God forbid, a missile strike on the relevant places."
"Although it will be a long process, we will be able to move all the factories from the port within five years. Even more so, we could make Haifa Port Israel's greenest attraction with green environmental industries within a decade."
Former commander of the IDF combat engineering unit Yahalom, Colonel (Res.) Atai Shelah, also called to move the chemical depots from the Haifa area as terrorists have long been eyeing to carry out attacks on the facilities due to their destructive potential.
"These substances are for civil use, but at the beginning of the Second Intifada [Palestinian popular unrset] in 2000, we had a very hard time trying to prevent terrorist organizations from getting their hands on these alleged civilian substances," he told Ynet in an interview. "We fully grasped the potential that lies in the matter and what the damage could be."
Shelah said that he did not believe that the explosion in Beirut was the result of terrorist activity and could have been "the result of a malfunction, like a short circuit."
The former sapper also added that there could have been Hezbollah arms and missiles stored in the warehouse itself or its close vicinity.
"We know that Hezbollah uses these areas for storage," Shelah said. "At the beginning of the explosion, there were also small explosions, and bullets were also seen flying about leading to the big explosion."
"[Former Haifa mayor] Yona Yahav has done right to insist on removing the famous ammonia tank from the port, but it was not enough since there are still trucks carrying hazardous substances to the port, and most of the material is still there."