Dead whale washes up on Israeli shore after storm
People gather around a dead fin whale that washed ashore on a beach in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
Powerful winds and unusually high waves pummelled Israel's entire Mediterranean coastline over Tuesday and Wednesday, with tonnes of tar staining beaches from Rosh Hanikra, just south of Lebanon, to Ashkelon just north of Gaza.
The tar, itself apparently released by a ship unloading oil or by old tar lifted by the storm from the seabed, killed many marine creatures.
That had sparked theories that the 16.9-metre (55-foot) male fin whale, weighing an estimated 25 tonnes, had also fallen victim to poisoning.
But Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said Friday that experts had determined that the decayed state of the whale, discovered on Thursday at the southern Nitzanim beach near Ashkelon, meant it had died some two weeks ago.
"The whale's arrival cannot be linked to the tar pollution," the authority said in a statement.
The environmental protection ministry vowed to locate the source of the pollution, saying it was on a rare scale and that the cleanup was set to be "long and difficult".
Volunteers from a network of NGOs began cleaning up the beaches along with the ministry, which allocated emergency funds to the relevant municipalities to expedite the manual cleaning.