The activists also called on the Israeli authorities to take immediate action to stop industries dumping hazardous pollutants into the river.

Greenpeace say the pollution has been linked to cancers among marine commandos whose training required them to dive in the river. The Israeli authorities, concerned about the threat to human health, banned recreational activities and fishing on the river two weeks ago, but failed to stop the toxic discharges.

Liad Ortar, Greenpeace Mediterranean campaigner in Israel said: “We are here to do the job that the authorities have refused to take on and stop the pollution. The lack of political will to seriously address this problem is appalling.”

Greenpeace research reveals that pollution from the effluent pipes of the six main industries in the Kishon contain high levels of toxic heavy metals and other hazardous substances. Toxic discharges are routinely pumped into the river in direct contravention to the Barcelona Convention, by US owned chemical fertiliser manufacturer Haifa Chemicals, as well as Israeli owned chemical companies, together with refineries and municipal sewerage treatment plant.

The research concludes that the Kishon pollution is the direct cause of the cancers discovered amongst at least 20 commandos who were required to dive in the polluted waters as part of their routine training.

The marine commandos supported the Greenpeace action today. Yuval Tamir, who served in the navy seals for 20 years and retired as Lieutenant General, said: “The pollution has caused more than enough damage already. Greenpeace is setting the example by taking action to stop the toxic pollution. I am concerned about other, maybe younger people, who might be affected by the Kishon.” Yuval was required to dive into the Kishon Harbour regularly throughout his service. He has been diagnosed as suffering from both skin and cancer of the colon.

Greenpeace alerted the authorities of the threat the Kishon River to human health and the environment in 1995, but no action was taken. Today, the environmental organisation expressed concern that the full extent of the damage to public health and the environment caused by the Kishon River pollution may be greater than is currently recognised. Only the case involving the marine commandos has so far been investigated, but a vast number of people have spent time in and around the Kishon, such as fishermen, divers, sailing clubs and other youth clubs.

Greenpeace is accusing the industries responsible of seeking profit at the cost of public health and the environment. It also condemns the approach being taken by the Ministry of Environment to construct a 4.5 km by-pass pipe to direct treated toxic effluents to the sea instead.

“This as nothing more than an attempt to evade any real action by deceiving the public with apparent good intentions. The only real solution is a commitment by all the relevant authorities to stop the industries responsible from discharging this toxic pollution,” added Ortat. Ten of the activists have been arrested.

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