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      PA Claims Israel Steals Gas in Exploration of Gaza Waters

      The Palestinian Authority accuses Israel of "stealing" its natural gas resources by authorizing exploration of Gaza waters for gas fields.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 6/22/2011, 1:11 PM / Last Update: 6/22/2011, 1:17 PM

      The Palestinian Authority is claiming that authorization by the Israeli government for the Noble Gas firm to explore the waters off the coast of Gaza for potential natural gas fields constitutes “theft.” Noble has developed other productive gas reservoirs in Israel, including several off the coast of Haifa.

      Ramallah-based Fatah spokesman Dmitry Dliani told OilPrice.com the decision by the National Infrastructures Ministry was a “license to steal Gaza's natural gas reserves.” He demanded “international protection” against the move.

      Two offshore wells have already been developed by the British Gas company, Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2, tapping a natural reservoir estimated to contain 1.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

      Israel has suffered a severe shortage of natural gas following repeated terrorist attacks on the supply line from Egypt's gas terminal at El Arish in the Sinai Peninsula.

      The attacks have come in the wake of the “Arab Spring” uprising that toppled the 31-year regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and significantly loosened security in the Sinai Peninsula.

      The East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) company, a privately-held firm, was authorized by the Egyptian government in February 2004 to export gas to the Israel Electric Company. Owner Hussein Salem, a close confidante of Mubarak, fled the country in January as it became clear the revolution would become a tidal wave that would take over the government. He was reportedly tracked down, however, and arrested last week in Spain.

      Former Egyptian Oil Minister Samih Fahmi, who authorized the transaction, was arrested and thrown into prison by the revolutionary government that took over Egypt. He is expected to face corruption charges later this year, partly due to the gas deal with Israel, which the new government contends was negotiated at below-market prices. Both Israel and former Egyptian leaders deny the charges.