The recent conflict in Lebanon, as well as causing over 1,000 civilian deaths and ruination of the country’s infrastructure, has also damaged some of the world’s most important archaeological sites. The worst damage is to the ancient port city of Byblos which is badly affected by the huge oil spill caused when Israel deliberately bombed the Jieh power plant several times causing the release of 15,000 tons of oil which has created the worst environmental disaster in the Mediterranean. The ancient stone harbour is now coated in thick toxic sludge.
Byblos, which has been continuously inhabited for more than 7,000 years, is still suffering from the oilslick.
The Lebanese authorities have not been able to clear up the oil, which leaked when the power station at Jiyyeh south of Beirut was bombed by the Israelis.
As the wave reaches the shore in Byblos, more oil is brought in from the Mediterranean Sea.
This is a town that has been invaded by many civilizations – but a man-made environmental disaster now threatens the port.
Unless urgent action is taken soon the damage will become permanent. Other historic sites, although not directly bombed were damaged by the vibrations of nearby bombing. Particularly endangered are the splendid Roman ruins of Baalbek, some of the finest examples of imperial Roman architecture outside of Italy. Cracks in the lintel stones have widened and in Tyre frescoes have also been damaged on a Roman tomb.
Unesco is launching an urgent appeal for funds to restore these world heritage sites.