Blast Hits Egypt-Israel Gas Pipeline, Suspending Supplies, State Media Say

Unidentified attackers blew up a facility at a pipeline that transports natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, Egyptian state-run media said today.

Authorities suspended gas flows after the explosion, Al Jazeera television reported, without saying how it obtained the information.

The blast occurred at 3 a.m. local time at a gas- distribution facility south of El-Arish in the province of North Sinai, Cairo-based state-run Nile News television said. Firefighters were still trying to control the blaze, the Middle East News Agency reported.

The bombing is the second this year on the main pipeline exporting Egyptian gas to Israel. Gunmen attacked the network on Feb. 5 during a popular revolt in Egypt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak six days later. Authorities thwarted a separate attempt on the same network, state-run Mena reported March 27.

Egyptian prosecutors last week ordered the detention of former Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy and five ex-officials in an investigation into the country’s agreement to sell natural gas to Israel, signed during Mubarak’s rule. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition group under Mubarak, repeatedly criticized his regime for exporting to Israel at prices that were below market rates.

Egypt has 77 trillion cubic feet (2.18 trillion cubic meters) of gas reserves and is the main producer of the fuel in the eastern Mediterranean region, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The country exported 650 billion cubic feet in 2009, of which 30 percent went through the El Arish-Ashkelon pipeline to Israel or via a separate link to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, according to the department.

Fifty-four percent of 1,000 Egyptians surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project want the government to annul its peace treaty with Israel, the Washington-based center said on April 25. Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat signed the treaty in 1979.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alaa Shahine in Dubai at asalha@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at shajimathew@bloomberg.net

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