Lebanon, located on a 160-km-long transpressional bend of the left-lateral Levant (Dead Sea) fault system (LFS), has been the site of infrequent but large earthquakes, including one submarine, tsunamigenic event. The main objective of the Shalimar marine survey was to characterize and map active deformation offshore of Lebanon using a range of geophysical techniques, particularly seismic reflection profiling. The cruise results clearly establish the presence of young submarine thrust faults and folds and clarify the structure of this part of the Levant margin. A submarine fold belt, bounded by thrusts and lateral ramps and extending up to 30 km from the shoreline, is interpreted as the foreland thrust system of the actively growing Mount Lebanon range. There is no large fault extending into the Levant basin toward Cyprus, which indicates that thrusting only absorbs local transpression resulting from the Lebanese restraining bend. Both the Miocene and Plio-Quaternary sedimentary sequences are affected by shortening, with landward dipping blind thrusts and associated growth strata. The presence of the Messinian evaporites creates complex deformation patterns, including normal faults due both to folding accommodation and to gravity spreading, all well imaged in the seismic reflection profiles. Because the evaporite layer acts as a decollement level, shortening extends farther out seaward through a series of thrust imbricates or duplexes. The strongest shortening, observed between Beirut and Batroun, decreases toward the south between Saida and Tyre. North of Tripoli, the passive margin is not affected by Neogene deformation and is well preserved. We propose that since the Miocene, the northward propagating LFS interacted with margin structures inherited from the Mesozoic rifting phase and was deviated along the more rigid oceanic crust flooring the Levant basin, a process which led to the formation of the Lebanese restraining bend of the LFS and consequently to the offshore shortening we document here. Such coastal transpression has resulted in local (similar to 100 km) inversion of the passive margin, which might eventually evolve into a new subduction zone.
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