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Middle East
Egypt gas pipeline attacked
Unknown attackers blow up North Sinai pipeline that supplies gas to Jordan.
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2011 09:28 GMT
 

Unknown attackers have blown up a pipeline that runs through El-Arish area of Egypt's north Sinai area and supplies gas to Jordan and Israel, according to Egypt's state television.

The Jordanian route that runs from El- Arish to Aqaba and then up to Amman has been damaged by Saturday's explosion.  

But it has been reported that the gas pipeline running to Ashkelon in Israel has not been affected.

The explosive material was placed inside or adjacent to the control station of the gas supply line. There were no immediate reports of any casualties as a result of the blast.

"Saboteurs took advantage of the security situation and blew up the gas pipeline," a state television correspondent reported, saying there was a big explosion.

State TV quoted an official as saying that the "situation is very dangerous and explosions were continuing from one spot to another" along the pipeline.

"It is a big terrorist operation", a state TV reporter said.

The security presence in the Sinai province is very light.

Residents in the area also reported a huge explosion and said flames were raging in the area.

According to a security source, the Egyptian army closed the main source of the gas supply to the pipeline.

"The armed forces and the authorities managed to close the main the source of flow and are trying to control the fires," the source said.

Governor of Sinai has confirmed to Al Jazeera that the fire that resulted from the explosion of the gas supply line has been controlled and that the infrastructiure at the gas terminal has not been severely damaged.

Al Jazeera's corrspondent reported from Egypt that, "We do not know yet who was behind the explosion as no group has claimed responsibility."

According to Al Jazeera's sources, eye witnesses are being interviewed by authorities and the investigation is focusing on some bedouin tribes of Northern Sinai.

Bedouin tribesmen of the Sinai Peninsula attempted to blow up the pipeline last July as tensions intensified between them and the Egyptian government, which they accuse of discrimination and of ignoring their plight.

"They do not enjoy the wealth that the state generates from the Sinai peninsula, the money has not benefitted the communities there," our correspondent added.

Anti-government protests in Egypt have now entered their 12th day and despite the protesters' demands that President Hosni Mubarak must leave office immediately, he says that if he does indeed step down then the country will descend into chaos, increasing security concerns.

"The issue of security is often used in Egyptian politics but many Egyptians say that the tensions inside Egypt have been because of the government itself.

"Bedouins, arms trade and drug trafficking are some of the internal issues that the central government in Cairo has failed to deal with," our correspondent said.

The gas supplies from Egypt account for 40 per cent of Israel's gas imports. 

And although the gas supply route to Israel has not been affected by this explosion, yet Israeli authorities remain concerned as the events have been unfolding in Egypt over the last few days.

Al Jazeera's correspondent, Tony Birtley reported from Jerusalem that "Israelis have been very jittery for the last 10 days, if a government comes into power in Egypt that is not sympathetic to Israel then it will present security issues for Israel. 

"Israel is realising that their good friend (Mubarak) is on his way out, and they are not sure who is on the way in."

Our correspondent, Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reported from Amman that the Jordanian ministry of energy officials are in touch with the Egyptian government to find out whether pipelines carrying gas to Jordan have been affected.

The ministry will not release any details until an official response is received from Egypt.

A former official in the dismissed Jordanian government told Al Jazeera that "This is what we were afraid of (with regards to unrest in Egypt affecting Jordan).

"Gas prices will now go up, after Jordanian government announced its commitment to bear the brunt of any increases in fuel derivatives till March to reduce economic hardships following massive protests here," the former official said.

Ghaleb Al Maabreh, the head of Jordan's national electricity company told Al Jazeera that  Egypt stopped pumping gas to Jordan following the explosion and not before.

He said that the Egyptians will repair the pipes in less than a week and that the situation is "manageable".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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