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Saboteurs bomb Egypt gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan

By: 
Jailan Zayan - AFP

CAIRO — Saboteurs bombed an Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai peninsula on Monday for the third time since February, cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan.

Officials said a car had parked near the pipeline in the Bir al-Abd area, 80 kilometres (about 50 miles) from the northern Sinai town of El-Arish, shortly before the explosion.

They said the bomb was activated remotely, without reports of casualties.

North Sinai governor Abdel Wahab Mabrouk condemned the bombing as a "terrorist act meant to jeopardise the stability and security of Sinai," the official MENA news agency quoted him as saying.

A second device was found near the bomb blast "but the army has dealt with it before it exploded", said Magdi Tawfiq, head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Company (GASCO).

He told MENA that emergency services brought the fire under control and a committee was formed to investigate. "The company will work to fix the pipeline in Sinai as soon as the fire is completely out," he said.

Witnesses said the flames at their peak reached as high as 10 metres (32 feet).

It was the third attack on the gas pipeline since February, a time of political upheaval when an uprising toppled former president Hosni Mubarak and saw power handed over to a military council.

An April 27 attack on the pipeline in Al-Sabil area of north Sinai cut off international gas supplies. In February, attackers blew up a sector of the pipeline in the town of Lihfren, also in north Sinai, near the Gaza Strip.

Another attempt to attack the pipeline in March failed.

An Israeli official dismissed fears of domestic power cuts following the latest blast. "At the moment there is no supply of gas from Egypt," national infrastructures ministry spokeswoman Maya Etzioni told AFP.

But "we are prepared, as always, with alternative solutions, with alternative supplies. There's gas from Yam Thetis," she said in reference to an Israeli offshore gas field.

Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel's natural gas which is used to produce electricity.

Israeli security sources said they received intelligence about 10 days ago that a global Jihadist group was planning to hit the Sinai pipeline, but added it was too early to say if the unnamed organisation was behind Monday's attack.

Jordanian officials have also been in talks with their Egyptian counterparts "to determine the damage and discuss solutions," Jordan's state-run Petra news agency said.

"Jordan will face unusual problems this summer if this issue continues," Abdul Fattah Nsur, director of Jordan Central Electricity Generation Co, told Petra.

Jordan, which buys 95 percent of its energy needs, imports about 240 million cubic feet (6.8 million cubic metres) of Egyptian gas a day, or 80 percent of its electricity requirements.

In April, Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf asked for the revision of all contracts to supply gas abroad, including to Israel.

Sharaf said the contracts would be revisited so the gas "would be sold with deserved prices that achieve the highest returns for Egypt."

The controversial gas deal with Israel has been repeatedly challenged in Egyptian courts due to its secretive clauses and over prices, and because it was sealed without parliamentary consultation.

In May, Jordan said Egypt was withholding its contracted gas supply to energy-poor Jordan unless a new deal was signed at a higher price.

Under a 14-year deal signed in 2002, Egypt used to sell gas to Jordan at a discounted price -- half of the market price, or $3 (2.16 euros) per million British Thermal Units (1,000 cubic feet of gas equals 1.027 million BTU).

Posted Date: 
5 July 2011