Gunmen blow up Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel

By Ashraf Sweilam

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 12 2011 4:20 a.m. MDT

Egyptian Bedouins watch as smoke and flames rise into the air after masked gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in El Arish, in the northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, in a predawn attack Tuesday, July 12, 2011. The attackers ordered the guards on duty to leave and then blew up the terminal, starting a huge fire that sent flames shooting into the air that lit up the night sky, according to the official. (AP Photo)

The Associated Press

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Masked gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in a pre-dawn attack Tuesday, security officials said.

It was the second attack on the pipeline in as many weeks and the fourth since an 18-day uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. Tuesday's attack used the same methods as the previous one, Egyptian officials said.

The officials said the attack was carried out by at least four assailants.

The terminal is located in the city of El-Arish in the northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of the Israeli border.

The attackers ordered the guards on duty to leave and then blew up the terminal, starting a huge fire that sent flames shooting into the air and lit up the night sky, according to the officials.

There were no casualties, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

No one claimed responsibility for Tuesday's explosion, but disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen in the area have been blamed for attacking the pipeline in the past. Islamists opposed to Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel have also been suspected.

Later Tuesday, Israel's Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said the attacks on the pipeline could threaten Egypt-Israel relations.

"This was an anchor, perhaps the most important element of our peace agreement with Egypt from an economic perspective and it is slowly, slowly eroding," he told Israel radio.

He said Israel had other sources of energy and that consumers were not expected to face disruptions.

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