Regional 2D and 3D seismic data from the Levant Basin reveal the updip extensional component of thin-skinned gravity tectonics on this continental margin. Because of its youth (5–7 Ma), the earliest stages of deformation of this salt basin are preserved without the severe structural overprinting common on more mature, giant salt-tectonic systems. Extension detaches onto and within Messinian evaporites up to 1800 m thick. By structural restoration, we reconstruct the tectonic evolution of the Messinian evaporites using paleobathymetric constraints from wells and seismic profiles. This analysis suggests that the Mediterranean drawdown during the Messinian Salinity Crisis was ∼800 m. The 10- to 15-km–wide extensional domain tracks the landward pinch-out of the mobile Messinian evaporites against an older Late Miocene scarp. Diachronous extension began in the center of the margin in the mid-Pliocene, then spread northward in the late Pliocene, then finally southward in the early Pleistocene. Extension continues today on many of the most landward faults. Extensional strain varies greatly along strike from <1 km to as much as 12–15 km. Comparing observations with four end-member conceptual models, we infer that both extension and seaward salt flow thinned the evaporite margin and its overburden. Both processes were triggered by a combination of uplift of the continental shoulder of the Dead Sea Rift and subsidence in the Mediterranean Basin. At least three factors controlled variations in extension: (1) degree of tilting of the salt wedge, related to the interplay of coastal uplift and basin subsidence; (2) presence of pre-Messinian canyons overlain by landward salients of salt; and (3) variations in evaporite facies and the proportion of siliciclastic admixture.

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