Sinai gas pipeline hit for fourth time this year

Explosion on pipeline distributing gas to Israel occurs east of Al-Arish; security guard and his family injured in blast.

Egypt gas pipeline blast 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt gas pipeline blast 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Saboteurs on Tuesday blew up an Egyptian pipeline distribution station in the northern Sinai Peninsula that supplies natural gas to Israel, Egypt’s official MENA news agency said.
It was the fourth such attack this year.
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MENA quoted eyewitnesses as saying the assailants attacked a security guard at the Al- Tawil station near the town of El-Arish in the morning hours before blowing up the pipeline.
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said the pipeline attack marked another blow to Egyptian-Israeli commercial ties.
“The most important economic connection between Israel and Egypt is eroding,” Landau said. “Electricity disruptions are not expected since we have other reserves, but energy will be more expensive.”
He said the price would increase by about 20 percent due to the use of gasoline and diesel fuel rather than gas, adding his job was to “maintain the supply of electricity” to Israel.
“Israel was ready to allow Egypt to deploy more forces in Sinai to secure the pipeline, even at the beginning of the Egyptian uprising, in opposition to the peace agreement,” he explained. “But I recommend against interfering since our neighboring country’s situation is not simple. Israel needs to rely on herself and the Tamar reserves can supply [the country’s gas] needs for the next 25 years.”
Egypt’s Nile television said flames from the station could be seen up to 20 kilometers away.
It gave no details on the causes of the explosion or the extent of damage, but said the security guard and some members of his family were believed to have been hurt.
MENA said the station pumps gas to another station in an area called Sheikh Zwayed, which then transfers the gas to Israel. The agency had earlier reported that the station was used to “export Egyptian gas abroad.”
Egypt has been trying to renegotiate gas prices with Israel and Jordan after former president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in February amid charges of corruption, including selling gas to Israel at below market prices.
Israel says it pays market rates.
MENA said that the governor of Northern Sinai and the area’s security chief arrived on the scene as security forces searched for those responsible, and that fire trucks were trying to contain the flames.
Egypt’s gas transport company, Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS, has been finalizing repairs on a pipeline that supplies gas to Israel and Egypt, and was expected to complete the work over the weekend.
A security source said after the blast on July 4 that men in a small truck who were armed with machine guns forced guards at the station to flee, and then planted explosive charges.
Previous attacks on the pipeline on April 27 and February 5 forced its closure for several weeks.