Last updated: 5 February, 2012

New blast hits Egypt’s gas pipeline to Israel

Saboteurs on Sunday blew up an Egyptian pipeline that supplies gas to Israel and Jordan, in the 12th such attack in a year, security officials said.

Masked gunmen planted explosives under the pipeline in Al-Massaeed area, close to the town of El-Arish in the northern Sinai peninsula, they said. Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion, before a fire broke out.

The attack on the pipeline came the day after an Islamist leader from the area died in his prison cell in Cairo. Interior ministry officials said he died of natural causes.

Emergency services were rushed to the scene to try to control the blaze, a security official said, without reporting casualties.

The pipeline, which carries gas through the Sinai and on to Jordan and Israel, has already been attacked 11 times over the past year, starting from the time of the uprising which ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Jordan said its gas supplies came to a halt after the latest attack.

“We are currently contacting Egyptian authorities to determine damages and find out when the supplies would resume,” Jordan’s Energy Minister Qutaibah Abu Qura told state-run Petra news agency.

“The oil refinery and the National Electric Power Company are now trying to provide power stations with enough oil derivatives to maintain electricity generation.”

Egyptian gas covers 80 percent of parched kingdom’s electricity production demand.

“Jordan got 90 million cubic feet of Egyptian gas between mid-January and yesterday — or 36 present of the amount the two countries have agreed,” Abu Qura said.

Egypt’s Sinai is particularly sensitive due to tensions with the heavily-armed Bedouin community living in the region.

Goods are smuggled to the Palestinian enclave of Gaza through the Sinai, which the Israelis also charge is used as a rear base for militant attacks against its territory.