Over the past year, the country’s justice system has significantly strengthened enforcement activity against ecological violations, the Environmental Protection Ministry informed The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Examining various events in which groups and individuals have been convicted for their activities, the ministry declared a “welcome, strict trend of the justice system against environmental criminals.”

Courts have awakened to implications of environmental crimes and have thereby stirred a greater awareness of the relevant issues and their importance, the ministry said.

One such success includes the January Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court sentencing of Alfonso Hasson to imprisonment for operating a pirate waste transfer station in a Bnei Brak building, the ministry said.

In May, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court sentenced Tziki Arbiv, CEO of Milano Civilian Engineering, to six months in prison for operating a pirate waste transfer station for construction waste in Moshav Ben-Zakai, south of Yavne.

Most recently – and amounting to the third prison sentence for environmental crimes in 2014 – Atef Massarueh was sentenced at the end of June to three months in prison and fined NIS 400,000 by the Kfar Saba Magistrate’s Court, for operating a pirate waste site west of Taiba for 13 months.

A second owner of the site, Aziz Massarueh, was required to pay a NIS 300,000 fine, while two drivers who worked on the site were each fined NIS 50,000 and had their driver’s licenses revoked for three to six months, the ministry said.

The Kfar Saba Magistrate’s Court likewise ordered the closure and evacuation of the site, located about 2.5 km.

from Taiba and adjacent to the Moshav Azriel greenhouses, by the end of 2014, the Environment Ministry said.

About a decade ago, land was mined in the same area for the construction of a cross-Israel highway, and in the process, a 2.6-hectare, 20m. deep hole was created in the area. That hole, owned by the defendants, was transformed into a pirate site for construction waste.

Because the site is located next to Nahal Alexander, and the aquifer at this location is only about 30 to 40 meters deep, Environment Ministry officials have expressed suspicions of potential groundwater contamination.

During tours of this site, officials said they found huge amounts of construction waste in the hole, and also observed black smoke rising from the pit, causing air pollution.

Despite multiple warnings to the dump’s owners that the hole could not be used as a waste site, the facility continued to operate without a business license and without infrastructure required by the law, the ministry officials added.

To the Environment Ministry, the successful prosecution of these operators and the aforementioned cases are key examples of an increased national intolerance for environmental crimes.

“This is a clear message to environmental criminals,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz.

“We will continue to carry out enforcement without compromise and without bias, and by means of deterrence we can produce cleaner air, less polluted soil and a quieter life without noise hazards.”

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