Gas Pipeline from Egypt to Israel Hit

CAIRO – An explosion hit a gas pipeline running from Egypt to Israel yesterday, the latest in a series of attacks on the installation that crosses the increasingly volatile Sinai region.

The pipeline, which also supplies gas to Jordan, has come under attack at least 12 times since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February last year.

The latest blast took place in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of Al Arish, in north Sinai.

The state-owned operating company, Gasco, said the fire was brought under control by dawn but the flow remained cut, including exports.

The blast came as Egypt’s military rulers faced a fourth day of violent street protests and the United States threatening to cut more than a billion dollars in badly needed aid.

The protests, sparked by anger at the authorities’ inability to prevent a riot after a soccer match last week left 74 people dead, have transformed from a demonstration of anger at the police into renewed calls on the military to step down.

In downtown Cairo yesterday, security forces fired salvos of tear gas at thousands of rock-throwing protesters marching on the Interior Ministry. A government building was set on fire.

Since Thursday, 12 people have been killed in Cairo and Suez, another hotbed of anti-government protests east of the capital.

The explosive protests have been coupled with warnings from the US – a key ally – of cutting aid following raids on 17 pro-democracy and rights groups as well as a ban on some American aid workers from leaving the country.

US officials blasted the raids, which the Egyptian officials have defended as part of a legitimate investigation into the groups’ work and finances.

Egyptian investigating judges yesterday referred 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, to trial before a criminal court for allegedly being involved in banned activities and illegally receiving foreign funds.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Egypt’s Foreign Minister that failure to resolve the dispute may lead to the loss of American aid.

Washington is due to give Egypt US$1.3 billion (S$1.6 billion) in military assistance and US$250 million in economic aid this year.


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