Review of the tectonics of the Levant Rift system: The structural significance of oblique continental breakup

Yossi Mart, William B.F. Ryan, Oxana V. Lunina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Levant Rift system is an elongated series of structural basins that extends for more than 1000 km from the northern Red Sea to southern Anatolia. The system consists of three major segments, the Jordan Rift in the south, El Gharb-Kara-Su Rift in the north, and the Lebanese Fault splay in between. The rifted parts of this structural system are accompanied by intensively uplifted margins that mirror-image the basinal pattern, namely, the deeper the basin - the higher its margins, and vice versa. Uplifts also occur along the fault splay section. The Jordan Rift comprises axial basins that diminish in size from the south northwards, and are separated from each other by shallow threshold zones along the axis of the rift, where the margins are also subdued. The Lebanese Fault splay consists of five faults that emerge from the northern edge of the Jordan Rift and trend like a fan between the north and the northeast. One of these faults connects the Jordan and El Gharb-Kara-Su rifts. The Levant Rift and its uplifted margins started to develop in the middle-late Miocene, and most of the structural development occurred in the Plio-Pleistocene. The Levant Rift system is characterized by its oblique displacement, and evidence for both dip-slip and strike-slip displacement was measured on its faults. Earthquakes also indicate that same mixed pattern, some of them show strike-slip offset, and others normal. It is generally conceded that the amount of normal offset along the boundary faults of the Rift system reaches 8-10 km, but the lateral displacement is disputed, and offsets ranging from 11 to 107 km were suggested. Assessment of the available data led us to suggest that the sinistral offset along the Levant Rift system is approximately 10-20 km. The similarity between the vertical and the lateral displacements, the basin and threshold structural pattern of the Rift, model experiments in oblique rifting, as well as the significant tectonic resemblance to the Red Sea and the East African rifts, indicate that the Levant Rift is the product of continental breakup, and it is probably an emerging oceanic spreading center.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-232
Number of pages24
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2005


  • Arabian Plate
  • Continental breakup
  • Levant Rift system
  • Oblique rifting
  • Red Sea
  • Splay faulting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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