An Egyptian pipeline sending gas to Israel and Jordan was hit by two explosions early Thursday, Egypt’s security services and the official news agency said.
A first blast occurred around 1:00 am (2300 GMT Wednesday) 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the town of al-Arish in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, a security source said.
A second unexplained explosion took place near a pumping station in the same sector, the official news agency MENA said, adding that the army was deploying in the region.
The pipeline, which carries gas through the Sinai and on to Jordan and Israel, had already been attacked six times since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February. The blast is also the first since pumping was resumed on October 24.
“Primary examination showed that Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) were put under the pipeline and were detonated from a distance,” a security source told Reuters.
“The attackers used two trucks and extended wires were found at the scene,” he added.
Residents Arish told Reuters that flames could be seen from the town, and other witnesses said they had seen armed men at the scene of the first blast, the security source said. He did not know if there had been any victims.
Previous attacks have disrupted gas deliveries to both destination countries several times, but it was not immediately clear what impact the latest incidents would have.
The most recent attack was on September 27 and left one person injured.
Army experts have also located and defused a number of other devices targeting the pipeline.
Egyptian authorities have on several occasions announced measures to step up protection of the pipeline and try to arrest those behind the attacks.
Israel generates 40 percent of its electricity using natural gas, and Egypt provides 43 percent of its supplies of the material.
The deliveries to Israel, agreed under Mubarak who was overthrown on February 11, have come under heavy criticism in Egypt.
Deal with Israel
Egypt and Israel have signed a 20-year natural gas deal by which Egypt would export gas to its neighbor; however, the deal was unpopular with the Egyptian public and critics argued the Jewish state had been offered gas at prices that were too low.
A company official from East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG), which exports Egyptian gas to Israel, had said in July that international shareholders in the firm were pursuing legal claims against Egypt for $8 billion in damages from contract violations in gas supplies. That followed disruptions caused by pipeline attacks.
Egyptian gas also covers 80 percent of Jordan’s electricity production demand − 6.8 million cubic meters a day. Egypt doubled the price of gas exported to Jordan last month.
Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab said the new price for gas exported to Jordan was just above $5 per million BTU, compared to the previous price of $2.15 to $2.30.
The Egyptian government said this month it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and appointing security patrols from local Bedouin tribes.
Previous explosions have closed the pipeline, run by Gasco, Egypt’s gas transport company − a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS, for weeks.
Egypt’s Sinai region is also particularly security sensitive due to tensions with the Bedouin community living there. Many goods are smuggled to the Palestinian enclave of Gaza through Sinai, which the Israelis also charge is a rear base for militant attacks against its territory.