Blast rocks Egypt's gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan
CAIRO (Reuters) - An explosion on Sunday rocked the Egyptian pipeline built to carry natural gas to Israel and Jordan, the 15th time it has been attacked since the start of the uprising in early 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
The blast occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning at al-Tuwail, east of the coastal Sinai town of al-Arish, at a point before the pipeline splits into separate branches to Israel and Jordan, security officials and witnesses said.
Gunmen in a small truck drove up to the pipeline, dug a hole and placed explosive charges under the pipeline that they detonated from a distance, a security official and witnesses said.
A large boom echoed across the area and residents up to 30 km (18 miles) away said later they could see flames of burning gas lighting the sky.
An official in the company that manages the pipeline said exports of gas to both Israel and Jordan had been halted since an explosion that hit the pipeline in April and that the flames were caused by residual gas.
Residents in al-Arish, however, said gas shipments had begun three days ago through the pipeline, which at one point supplied Israel with about 40 percent of its natural gas.
Egypt in April terminated its agreement to supply gas to Israel because of what it said was a business dispute.
The 20-year gas deal, signed in the Mubarak era, was unpopular with many Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the fuel.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the installation that crosses the increasingly volatile Sinai Peninsula. Security in Sinai was relaxed after the fall of Mubarak as the police presence thinned out across Egypt.
(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed, Writing by Patrick Werr; Editing by Peter Cooney)