Damage from a katyusha strike against infrastructure facilities along the Haifa Bay could range widely if Hizbullah were to succeed in its threat to aim for the area's petrochemical installations.
"There are dozens of facilities in the area around the oil refinery. If certain of them are hit there would be no real impact though production could be paralyzed [if the rockets continue to rain down on the area]," said a consultant in the energy industry. "If gas or fuel tanks are hit, however, that could lead to a conflagration, air pollution and life-threatening explosions and damage to property."
Al-Manar TV carried a threat by Hizbullah Sunday to strike Haifa's petrochemical installations. The organization claimed that it had been deliberately avoiding hitting the facilities, but would begin aiming for them if "the Zionist" should "commit any new folly."
The nature and extent of damages and hazards from such an attack would depend strongly on which facility is struck - a hit stopping production of petroleum derivatives, such as car fuel, would require Israel to boost imports or dip into reserves. Imports would be more susceptible to international pricing than locally produced fuel, and supplies could be strained for a time.
While moderate damage could take up to a few months to fix, devastation of the facilities would necessitate "a year and more" for reconstruction, as well as significant investments. But a single katyusha rocket would not likely be able to wreak that level of destruction, he noted.
Weeks before rockets from Lebanon began falling in the northern part of the country, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer summoned representatives from the Israel Defense Forces, Homefront Command, the Environment Ministry and of the installations themselves to discuss the threat of a Hizbullah rocket attack, and already then had instructed all parties to prepare immediately for such a scenario, the ministry said.
The Haifa Bay facility of Oil Refineries Ltd. (Bazan) said Sunday it was "operating in cooperation with the Homefront Command and security bodies," but would not comment further on Hizbullah's threat.
There are various chemical and infrastructural facilities in the immediate area of the oil refinery, producing a slew of fuels and chemical products, including ammonia, the source said.
Bazan, currently undergoing privatization, refines eight million tons of crude oil each year to produce gasoline, liquid petroleum gas, kerosene (jet fuel), light and heavy fuel oils, bitumen for asphalt pavement and related products. Bazan's Ashdod facility refines another four million tons of crude annually.
About 70% of the gasoline sold in Israeli pumping stations comes from Bazan, which imports crude oil primarily from former Soviet republics, according to the National Infrastructures Ministry. The remaining 30% of gasoline used in the country is imported by the fuel retailers themselves from a variety of sources.
Adjacent to the Haifa refinery, the facility of its subsidiary, Israel Petrochemical Industries, produces raw materials for the plastic industry, including ethylene, polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.
The National Infrastructures Ministry said Sunday that it had set up an emergency center to receive continual updates on all infrastructure facilities in Israel's north.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.