Natural gas supply to Israel cut off after blast at Egyptian terminal

A gas pipeline blows up in North Sinai in a suspected attack affecting supplies to both Israel and Jordan. (Feb. 5)
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 8:15 PM

JERUSALEM - Egypt temporarily suspended its natural gas supply to Israel as a security precaution after an explosion at a terminal in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Israel radio said Saturday.

The head of Egypt's natural gas company said the explosion at the el-Arish gas terminal was triggered by "a small amount of gas leaking," the Associated Press reported. State television initially reported that sabotage was suspected.

The blast set off a fire that could be seen for dozens of miles. The regional governor, Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, said the fire was brought under control by mid-morning, the AP reported. Technicians had to shut off valves controlling the flow of natural gas from the terminal into pipelines transporting gas to Israel, Syria and Jordan.

Israeli radio said that the explosion damaged a pipeline to Jordan, not to Israel, but that the supply to Israel was cut off as a temporary precaution.

Israelis have worried in recent days about the possibility of a cutoff of natural gas shipments from Egypt as a result of the turmoil and political uncertainty there.

"Following the pipeline explosion in [Egypt], the security establishment has taken steps to beef up security at all installations related to the supply of gas to Israel," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office said in a statement Saturday.

Israel's main electricity company said service to residences would not be interrupted.

Egypt sells Israel 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year under a 15-year deal that began in February 2008, according to the AP.

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