Sun Feb 5, 2012
CAIRO, Feb 5 (Reuters) – An explosion hit a gas pipeline running from Egypt to Israel on Sunday, the latest in a series of attacks on the installation that crosses the increasingly volatile Sinai region, witnesses and state media reported.
The pipeline, which also supplies gas to Jordan, has come under attack at least 12 times since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011.
The latest blast took place in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of al-Arish, in north Sinai. Gas pumping was stopped after the explosion.
The state-owned operating company, Gasco, said the fire was brought under control by dawn but the flow remained cut, including exports, the state news agency reported.
Residents in al-Arish told Reuters they could see flames from their town when the attack took place. Security forces and fire trucks raced to the scene, witnesses said.
Security in Sinai loosened after Mubarak’s fall as the police presence thinned out across Egypt.
Egypt’s 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed in the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the gas.
Previous explosions have sometimes led to weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline run by Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.
Egypt said in November it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen in the area.
Sinai has long been a restive area, where Bedouins complain of government neglect. Many people in the region possess weapons. The area hosts several Red Sea resorts with five-star hotels, but Bedouins say they do not see the benefits.
Egypt doubled the gas price for Jordan in October. Jordan said on Monday it would raise electricity prices as of February to cover the rising burden of imported fuel costs after loss of regular Egyptian gas supplies.. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed, Sherine El Madany and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Sherine El Madany)