Gas piplines to Israel and Jordan hit for the fifth time since February
Two people injured and local houses damaged in Northern Sinai blast
Ahram Online & agencies, Tuesday 27 Sep 2011
Pipelines delivering Egyptian natural to Jordan and Israel were hit by an explosion on Tuesday, eyewitnesses and security sources reported.
The explosion, the fifth since February, happened west of the city of al-Arish in Northern Sinai. Witnesses say that four militants drove in an unidentified car and opened fire on the gas terminal, causing flames to rise high in the sky.
Two people were reported to be injured due to the blast and several nearby houses and properties were partially damaged.
The pipeline is run by Gasco, Egypt's gas transport company, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.
There have been six attempts on the pipline since the February ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. The last, botched, operation was in August, prompting army and police forces on the Sinai to step up security to protect the pipeline.
Both Israel and Jordan depend heavily on Egyptian natural gas, with it generating 40 and 80 per cent of their energy needs respectively.
The two countries were forced to partly switch to fuel oil and diesel to by-step a slowdown in electricity production caused by the disruption to gas supplies.
International shareholders in East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG) are pushing ahead with legal claims against Egypt for US$8 billion in damages from contract violations in gas supplies, a company official said.
Israel has hailed the 20-year natural gas deal it signed with Egypt in 2005 as one of the most important agreements to emerge from the historic peace deal the countries reached in 1979.
But there has been some uncertainty over relations between the two countries in the wake of Egypt's 25 January uprising, the latest of which was the storming Israel's embassy in Cairo.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Egyptian government is losing control in Sinai.
Egypt has since said it will review its gas contract with Israel amid accusations Mubarak's administration had improperly negotiated the sale of gas at preferential prices. It has even ordered a former energy minister and six other officials to stand trial.
Israel says the price it pays for gas is on par with international standards and that it will not renegotiate the price, which was already adjusted upward about a year ago.
Israeli energy officials say the Egyptian government receives more than $3 per million British thermal units (BTU) from Israel.