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Egyptian Pipeline Blast a Result of Terrorism

It's out: Investigation has found that Saturday's gas pipeline explosion in Egypt was a terror act by local Bedouins and Islamist militants.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/9/2011, 4:07 AM / Last Update: 2/9/2011, 5:20 AM

A probe conducted by Egypt has found that Saturday’s gas pipeline explosion was a result of terrorism.

The Associated Press on Monday quoted Judge Abdel Nasser el-Tayeb, the chief investigator into the explosion in a terminal in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula, who said the explosion was caused by four masked gunmen who set off a bomb.

El-Tayeb reported that the terminal's guards testified that the men stormed the terminal in two cars, briefly restrained the guards and then set off the explosives using a remote control. Egypt's natural gas company had previously blamed the blast on a gas leak.

A report on Time Magazine’s website said that the massive fireball which resulted from the explosion could be seen from rooftops in the Gaza Strip. The report noted that possible suspects in the explosion include members of the Sinai Peninsula's Bedouin tribes as well as Islamist militants.

The terminal which exploded is part of a pipeline system that transports gas from Egypt's Port Said to Syria and Jordan. As a result of the explosion, Egypt temporarily stopped providing natural gas to these countries as well as to Israel and Lebanon.

Time Magazine noted that Egypt supplies Israel with some 40 percent of its natural gas, which Israel uses to generate electricity. It added that the two countries are three years into a 15-year contract for 1.7 billion cubic meters of Egyptian gas a year.

While the pipeline that transfers gas to Israel branches off the line shattered by the blast, it was undamaged in the explosion. And, while Egypt has had to temporarily stop the natural gas supply to Israel, the Israel Electric Company said earlier this week that “there is no concern of a disruption in electricity in Israel, even if gas deliveries from Egypt are halted completely.”

Israel's Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau noted, however, that the explosion proved that Israel must “do everything to improve Israel's energy security.”

Meanwhile, gas shipments from Egypt were partially restored to Jordan and Lebanon this week, but according to reports on Lebanese websites, the Jordanians have taken all the gas, leaving none for Lebanon. As a result, electrical output in Lebanon was drastically reduced, causing blackouts throughout the country.