Egyptian state television reports masked men set off detonation at pipeline in northern Sinai causing massive flames; gas supply to Israel cut off following explosion. Israel is monitoring situation.
A group of masked men set off a detonation at the Israel-Egypt gas pipeline in El-Arish, Egypt in the northern Sinai early on Saturday morning, Egyptian state television reported.
Residents say they heard the sound of an explosion, and that massive flames shot into the air. Egyptian state television referred to the incident as a “terrorist” attack.
Flames raged at the scene for three hours before they were successfully put out, Al-Jazeera reported.
Two people were injured and have been transferred to a local hospital, sources said.
The Egyptian army closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline that was blown up. “The armed forces and the authorities managed to close the main the source of flow and are trying to control the fires,” the source said.
Egypt is a modest gas exporter, using pipelines to export gas to Israel and also to Jordan and other regional states. It also exports via liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on its north coast, but those are not in the Sinai region.
State TV said the pipeline that was attacked supplied both the Israeli and Jordanian gas lines.
The SITE intelligence group, which monitors al Qaeda and other Islamist websites, said some groups had been urging Islamic militants to attack the pipeline to Israel, with which Egypt has a peace treaty.
“Saboteurs took advantage of the security situation and blew up the gas pipeline,” a state television correspondent reported, saying there was a big explosion.
Residents in the area also reported a huge explosion and said flames were raging in an area near the pipeline in the El-Arish area of north Sinai.
“Jihadists suggested that Muslims in Sinai take advantage of Egyptian unrest and strike the Arish-Ashkelon gas pipeline, arguing that it would have a major impact on Israel,” SITE said.
Site quoted one Islamist website author as saying: “To our brothers, the Bedouins of Sinai, the heroes of Islam, strike with an iron fist, because this is a chance to stop the supply to the Israelites.”
Sinai Bedouins have long grumbled about being neglected and have often sporadically clashed with Egyptian security forces. Many Bedouin were rounded up after a series of explosions in Sinai tourists resorts between 2004 and 2006.
The flow of gas through the pipeline to Israel has been cut off temporarily following the explosions.
Government officials in Jerusalem were monitoring the situation and trying to assess the extent of the damage, Israel Radio reported.
Egyptian security sources blamed “foreign elements” for the attack, Reuters reported.