'Egypt-Israel gas pipeline attacked by armed gang'

Unknown assailants blow up pipeline in Sinai leading to Jordan and Israel; Ayalon, Yatom call for decreased reliance on Egyptian gas.

Egypt gas pipeline blast 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt gas pipeline blast 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Saboteurs on Wednesday blew up a pipeline running through Egypt's North Sinai near the town of El-Arish that supplies gas to Israel and Jordan, a security source told Reuters.
"An unknown armed gang attacked the gas pipeline," the security source said, adding that the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan had been hit.
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"Authorities closed the main source of gas supplying thepipeline and are working to extinguish the fire," the sourcesaid, adding there was a tower of flame at the scene.
In response to the attack on the pipeline, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Wednesday that Israel needs to work on finding its own sources of energy.
"In light of regional instability, we must accelerate the production of Israeli natural gas in order to reach energy independence," Ayalon said.
Former Mossad director Danny Yatom called for increased drilling in the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, in response to the attack on the Israel-Egypt gas pipeline.
"This is a problem that we will probably have for a long time," Yatom told Army Radio. "In order to deal with it, we need to accelerate the gas supply from Tamar and Leviathan so that the gas from these reserves can reach power plants more quickly and decrease our reliance on Egyptian gas."
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told Army Radio that he does not expect any electricity problems.
"In the coming days, we will use gas that remains in the pipeline, but the Electric Corporation must find an immediate solution to the problem," Landau said.
Israel Electric Corporation announced that it is prepared to continue supplying electricity and will use alternative fuel sources in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry.
Last month, six gunmen in Sinai targeted the pipeline, overpowering a guard and planting an explosive device before fleeing.
The explosive device failed to detonate and was eventually defused by soldiers at the gas terminal in the village of el-Sabil near el-Arish.
In March, the Egyptian army deployed hundreds of additional soldiers to the northern Sinai Peninsula to guard the pipeline.
An Israeli defense official said Jerusalem had agreed to the deployment, which followed a February 5 explosion at a gas terminal in the area that disrupted the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan. Security officials said a bomb had caused the blast at the el- Arish terminal, while Egypt’s natural gas company said it had been caused by a gas leak.
The flow of natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan was cut off until March 16 as a result of the blast. Israel gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Egypt, a deal built on their landmark 1979 peace accord.
On Saturday, Egypt's public prosecutor ordered former Energy Minister Sameh Fahmy and six other officials to stand trial on charges of squandering public funds related to the natural gas deal with Israel.
The decision, part of a probe on graft during the 30-year-rule of Mubarak, said the deal in question caused Egypt losses worth more than $714 million and enabled a local businessman to make financial profits.