The Environmental Protection Ministry will impose NIS 3,830,469 worth of financial sanctions on the IDF due to the army’s negligence with respect to asbestos removal, the ministry announced on Monday evening.

Despite the fact that the Environment Ministry had ordered the army to evacuate an asbestos hazard from an area adjacent to Beersheba’s Natan Shalid base seven months ago, the IDF has failed to do so, according to the ministry.

Instead, panels laden with asbestos have sat exposed to the open air and have caused health hazards to soldiers, the ministry explained.

The decision to fine the IDF constitutes the first time that any government agency has ever informed the army of an intent to impose a monetary sanction, a ministry statement added.

“It is impossible that soldiers will endanger themselves precisely inside their bases as a result of environmental and health oversights,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.

“The use of fines against the IDF is most unusual and unprecedented, but we are not willing to accept disregarding of the law and risking of human lives.”

The asbestos hazards at Natan Shalid are the result of a series of military glitches that began in August 2011 with the accidental breakage of asbestos building structures, the ministry statement explained. Contrary to the guidelines of the Prevention of Asbestos Hazards Law, the IDF failed to update the Environment Ministry immediately, and instead waited about a month and a half to do so, the ministry noted. Regarding asbestos removal, the law requires submission of a work plan for ministry approval, as well as implementation of the removal by means of a certified contractor and inspector.

The IDF, however, only carried out a partial debris removal and moved the remaining hazard about 100 meters away by means of an additionally damaging towing process – which dispersed the asbestos over a larger area and generated dust containing asbestos fibers, the ministry charged.

A known human carcinogen, disintegrating asbestos fibers can penetrate the respiratory system and cause diseases such as mesothelioma and cancer, the ministry statement said. Stressing that the army’s actions pose an ongoing risk to nearby soldiers, the Environment Ministry said that the IDF has 30 days to submit a written appeal to the office.

In response, the IDF stressed that it has been following proper protocol regarding asbestos removal for many years.

“The IDF has been treating asbestos at its bases for over a decade,” it said in a statement. “The asbestos hazard at the Natan base is known and was reported to the Environmental Protection Ministry by officials acting on behalf of the IDF.

“The hazard is being treated continuously and is right now [being deliberated] among IDF enforcement officials and Environmental Protection Ministry enforcement officials, who are discussing ways of treating it.”

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