An Israeli court lifted on Thursday a temporary injunction that had threatened to delay production at the Leviathan gas field due to environmental concerns.
Rescinding Tuesday's injunction, the Jerusalem District Court said appellants had not provided sufficient evidence that Leviathan's emissions, in its start-up phase, could prove dangerous. It also cited reassurances provided by government representatives as to precautions taken at the site.
However, the court left open the possibility of further hearings on the issue. Later on Thursday the sides will meet in court, where a decision will be made on whether to hold another hearing on Sunday.
The partners in Leviathan said they are continuing with their plans. Operations at the field are not expected to begin before Sunday morning.
"The Leviathan partners welcome the court's decision to lift the temporary restraining order and allow us to begin flowing gas from the Leviathan reservoir," they said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the Jerusalem court, in a surprise decision, issued a temporary order that barred any gas emissions from Leviathan, effectively putting the project, which was due to come on line this month, on hold.
The companies, led by Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel's Delek Drilling, have already signed major, multi-billion dollar deals for exports to Egypt and Jordan.
Leviathan was discovered in 2010 about 120 km (75 miles) off Israel's coast. But its towering production platform was constructed much closer to shore - just 10 km away.
Environmental activists and municipalities located near where the pipeline comes ashore had tried unsuccessfully - including at the country's Supreme Court - to block the plan and force it to be built further out at sea.
The Leviathan partners are now waiting to open the wells and fill the subsea pipeline with natural gas, a process that sends emissions into the air.
The latest petition to halt the process was brought by several municipalities and an environmental group against the project's operator, Noble, and Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry.
The Leviathan partners said the project has been subject to rigorous oversight by the ministries of energy and environmental protection and other regulators.
"The natural gas from Leviathan will improve Israel's air quality by displacing coal, improve Israel's environment, provide security of supply and create unprecedented commercial ties in the region," they said.
(Reporting by Dan Williams and Tova Cohen; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and David Evans)