(Adds Islamic State claim)
CAIRO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Armed men attacked a gas pipeline in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula late on Sunday, security sources and witnesses said, but gas imports through North Sinai from Israel were unaffected.
Egyptian security forces have been battling an Islamist insurgency concentrated in North Sinai and that has escalated since 2013 with small-scale attacks common.
A group of gunmen detonated explosives on the pipeline west of el-Arish on Sunday, causing a fire but no casualties, security sources and witnesses said.
The pipeline carries gas to homes and factories in el-Arish and central Sinai and has been attacked several times previously, the sources said.
Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate said in a statement it had carried out an attack on a pipeline linking Egypt and Israel, without providing evidence.
Egypt began importing gas from Israel last month through a pipeline owned by the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which includes a subsea connection between el-Arish in Sinai and Ashkelon in Israel.
The gas is imported from Israel’s Leviathan field. A statement from partners developing the field said there had been no damage to the EMG pipeline.
“The flow of gas from Leviathan to Egypt is continuing as normal,” the statement said.
Yossi Abu, chief executive of Israel’s Delek Drilling , which has stakes in Leviathan and the EMG pipeline, said on Monday the project had a “very significant security system”.
“We are not blind to the risk and are prepared for every scenario,” he told an investors’ conference, adding there was an alternative pipeline system, a quick response mechanism for faults and insurance to cover any damage affecting Israeli gas exports to Egypt or Jordan.
Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Ari Rabinovitch and Omar Fahmy Writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman
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