This is the eighth attack on the pipeline since the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak [File: AFP]

A pipeline carrying gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan has been blown up in northern Egypt by saboteurs, witnesses and security sources said.

Monday's blast took place some 30km west of the town of El-Arish, near the Israeli border, a few hours before the country holds its first free election since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

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There was a second consecutive blast, about 100 metres away, sources told the Reuters news agency.

Egypt's state-run news agency MENA said the explosion was in al-Sabeel area. Security forces and fire trucks raced to the scene.

A security cource told Reuters the explosions were detonated from a distance and that tracks from two vehicles were found in the area.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Unpopular gas deal

The pipeline was last attacked on November 25. It is the eighth such attack since Mubarak stepped down on February 11. It is the ninth this year, with the first attack a few days before Mubarak was ousted.

Egypt's 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed in the Mubarak era, is unpopular with the Egyptian public, with critics arguing that the Jewish state does not pay enough for the gas.

An executive of the East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG), which exports Egyptian gas to Israel, said in July that international shareholders in the firm were pursuing legal claims against Egypt for $8bn in damages from contract violations in gas supplies, following disruptions caused by pipeline attacks.

Egypt doubled the price of gas exported to Jordan last month. Abdullah Ghorab, Egypt's petroleum minister, said the new price was just above $5 per million BTU, up from $2.15 to $2.30.

The government said this month it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen.

Source: Agencies