Egypt Gas Pipeline Is Bombed, Halting Supply

Egypt Gas Pipeline Is Bombed, Halting Supply
# 28 April 2011 03:59 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. A bomb exploded on a natural-gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula early Wednesday morning, forcing the second supply interruption to electric power plants in Israel and Jordan in three months due to sabotage, APA reports quoting “The Wall Street Journal”.
The explosion occurred at 3:30 a.m. after five masked gunmen infiltrated a measuring station belonging to a government-owned natural gas company located about one mile outside of the Sinai town of El Arish, according to security officials. No one was injured in the attack.
There was no claim of responsibility for the blast, but some officials indicated Bedouins, who have been battling Egyptian security forces for several years in the Sinai, were likely responsible.
The officials expressed concern that political instability in Cairo has emboldened the Bedouin to strike at government targets and has made it more difficult for Egyptian security forces to safeguard pipeline infrastructure that delivers energy critical to the economies of Israel and Jordan.
A Feb. 5 explosion, amid mass protests in Cairo against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, forced a supply interruption to Egypt’s neighbors for 38 days. That prompted Israel to permit Egypt to deploy additional security forces in Sinai beyond what is specified in their peace treaty in order to boost protection around the pipeline.
Assailants placed explosives on the natural-gas pipeline on March 27, but they failed to detonate.
In Israel, the explosion further strained public confidence in a supply agreement from 2005 that was annexed to the countries 32-year-old peace treaty. Egyptian authorities have questioned former President Hosni Mubarak on allegations that his family and associates profited by selling gas at below market rates to Israel. Officials have suggested they plan to renegotiate supply agreements with Israel and other customers.
An Israeli defense official acknowledged the repeated attacks on the pipeline have created a "delicate situation," but asserted that Israel should count on the Egyptian government to secure the pipeline and honor the peace agreement.
"The Egyptian administration has a clear interest in a clear policy in providing the gas. And only the Egyptian regime can resolve the matter," said Amos Gilad, director of the defense ministry’s political security staff in an interview with Israel Radio. "The sabotage is not directed against Israel, but has to do with problems relating to law enforcement in Sinai."
A cutoff of natural gas will force Israel and Jordan to rely on more expensive coal and diesel fuel to power their electric plants. During the previous cut off, Jordan was forced to ration electricity.
Wednesday’s cutoff won’t affect Israel’s electric supply, Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said.
He denied allegations in Egypt that Israel is getting natural gas at below-market prices, and said Israel has received no official requests from Egypt so far on reopening the supply agreement.
The pipeline attack points to the increasing lawlessness in the strategically sensitive Sinai Peninsula, a desolate, thinly populated region that shares a border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas.
Egyptian police have fought an open war for the past several years with local Bedouin tribes whom the police accuse of smuggling drugs, weapons and people to Israel and the Gaza Strip. When police forces vacated the peninsula during the Egyptian revolution in late January, many Bedouin vowed never to allow them to return.
Bedouin leaders reached on Wednesday said policemen have only returned to Al Arish, North Sinai’s main city, while the rest of the northern part of the peninsula remains essentially lawless.
A North Sinai security official disagreed, saying police had returned to all destinations throghout the peninsula.
"The general perception is that it’s the wild west on steroids right now," said a Western diplomat in Cairo. "The smuggling organizations have been relatively unchallenged over the last several months."
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