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Thousands protest in Tel Aviv to demand removal of offshore gas rig

Staff Writer |
Thousands of people protested in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday to demand that the government nix the plan to build a natural gas rig only 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) off Israel's shores.

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The demonstration, held under the banner "Stopping the Disaster," was initiated by the Shomrei Habayit organization, which acts mainly in the Hof Hacarmel area, as well as several other environmentalist groups.

Protestors are demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz push the rig 120 kilometers (74 miles) from Dor beach, minimize pollution from the Tamar gas rig and prevent the construction of gas-powered power plants, which they claim as useless and meant to appease "captive clients of the gas tycoons."

The gas rig would cause severe air pollution, protestors said, adding that in case of malfunction it would leak large amounts of condensate – a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids present in the production of raw natural gas.

Many came dressed in black shirts imprinted with skulls and the phrase "Don't Poison Us." Several prominent Israeli artists participated and performed during the demonstration.

Leviathan partners responded to the protest, saying: "Building of the Leviathan rig begins in the coming months exactly at the point which the government decided, based in the security establishment's recommendations, and as approved by all planning, regulatory and legal bodies involved in the matter."

As opposed to the organized fear campaign, said the partners' statement, "the rig will not pollute the air and the water, and there is a full consensus on this among all experts, which include environmentalist groups. The Leviathan project is not a problem, but a solution, and thanks to it Israel could be free of using the polluting coal which harms the health of the state's citizens."

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