Egypt-Israel natural gas line
Photo: Reuters
Riots in Cairo
Photo: AP

Egyptian official says blast caused by gas leak

(Video) Israel Radio says Egypt-Israel pipeline not damaged, but gas supply stopped as precaution. PMO: We're prepared for such situations

VIDEO - The head of Egypt's natural gas company said a fire at a gas terminal in the northern Sinai Peninsula was caused by a gas leak.


Saturday's fire, preceded by an explosion, did not cause casualties. However, officials had to shut off the flow of gas to neighboring Jordan and Israel to contain the blaze.


Fire at Egypt gas pipeline


The head of the Egyptian company for natural gas, Magdy Toufik, said in a statement that the fire broke out "as a result of a small amount of gas leaking."


Earlier state television said saboteurs blew up the gas pipeline in north Sinai in what its reporter referred to as a "big terrorist operation."  


A security source said the Egyptian army closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline.


Another security source in North Sinai said the blast took place at the Jordanian branch of the pipeline, not the one leading to Israel,


Israel Radio said the Egypt-Israel pipeline was not damaged, but the supply was stopped as a precaution.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Israel "is prepared for situations in which the supply of gas from Egypt is stopped, and we have the option of immediately switching to alternative energy sources."


Netanyahu met with Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and security establishment officials to discuss the attack in Egypt. The Infrastructure Ministry said its does not expect any disruptions in the supply of electricity.


"It is still unclear whether any damage was caused to the infrastructure of the gas pipeline in Egypt, but as a security precaution Israel has stopped the transfer of gas (from Egypt)," the PMO said.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office said the security establishment has beefed up security at its energy facilities.  


Fire following pipeline attack (Photo: AFP)


Residents in the area reported a huge explosion and said flames were raging in an area near the pipeline in the El-Arish area of north Sinai.


Anti-Mubarak protest in Cairo (Photo: Tsur Shezaf) 


Meanwhile, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the hub of demonstrations, protesters occupying the usually busy intersection in the heart of the city said they were not giving up.


"Leave, leave, leave," people camped out in the square -- scene of violent clashes this week between anti-government protesters and loyalists of President Hosni Mubarak -- chanted.


"We are not leaving the square until our demands are met," one of them shouted over a loudspeaker, after a relatively peaceful night where some sang patriotic songs and chanted poetry over loudspeakers talking of victory over Mubarak.


Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians held mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country on Friday.


Ex-intelligence chief Suleiman was due to discuss with the group of prominent figures an article in the constitution covering Mubarak handing over power to his vice president, one of the group's members, Diaa Rashwan, told Reuters.


Mubarak would stay on in a symbolic position under the proposal being promoted by the group of Egyptians calling itself the "The Council of Wise Men", allowing him to serve out his tenure with some dignity.


Some protesters however say they want a complete break with the past, while Obama has also called for "meaningful" change.


And while some analysts say transferring powers to Suleiman could help defuse the crisis, others argue it needs a bigger step shift to pave the way for free and fair elections.


"The best way to support democracy is to support democracy; not to enable authoritarians to take over the political system and hope they'll negotiate their way out of power," Steven Cook at the US Council on Foreign Relations said on its website.


The unprecedented challenge to Mubarak has rallied many different strands of society -- professionals and the poor, secular and religious, Muslims and Christians, internet-savvy youth with members of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist movement.


The United Nations estimates 300 people have died in the unrest, inspired in part by protests in Tunisia which forced veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee last month.


Attila Somfalvi, Hanan Greenberg, Reuters and AP contributed to the report 



פרסום ראשון: 02.05.11, 10:00
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