Suez Canal Pipeline Attacked

From Al Jazeera:

Unknown attackers have blown up a pipeline that runs through El-Arish area of Egypt’s north Sinai area and supplies gas to Jordan and Israel, according to Egypt’s state television.


The explosive material was placed inside or adjacent to the control station of the gas supply line. There were no immediate reports of any casualties as a result of the blast.

“Saboteurs took advantage of the security situation and blew up the gas pipeline,” a state television correspondent reported, saying there was a big explosion.

State TV quoted an official as saying that the “situation is very dangerous and explosions were continuing from one spot to another” along the pipeline.

Forbes reports that Egypt has been forced to cut off gas supplies to Israel and Jordan.

There were conflicting reports out of Egypt as to the cause of the explosion, with the state-run Middle East News Agency saying the work was done by “subversive elements.” Oil Minister Samah Fahmy reportedly said it could take up to two weeks to repair the damage.

The pipeline is the third most strategically important piece of energy infrastructure in Egypt after the Suez Canal and the Sumed Pipeline. But it is the most important one to Israel, delivering 40% of Israeli natural gas supplies. The Israeli government said this afternoon that it did not expect any interruption of electricity supplies as the country has gas in storage and can also switch to other fuels like oil and diesel. Israel started receiving gas from the pipeline in 2008.

Assuming for a moment that this was not an accident, it represents a serious escalation of the crisis in Egypt.

From the Independent UK:

Jitters about the impact of the unrest on the economy of both Egypt and the region were not eased yesterday when an explosion ripped through a gas terminal in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, setting off a massive fire that was contained by shutting off the flow of gas to neighbouring Jordan and Israel. Supplies are expected to be hit for at least a week. While Israel has other sources of power, and Jordan is believed to have substantial reserves, the sense that Egypt’s fragility can reach beyond its borders will add to the anxieties.

Traders are worried that the unrest might spread to oil-producing countries in the region and even affect shipments through the Suez Canal. Egypt is not a major oil producer, but it controls the canal and a nearby pipeline. Together these carry about two million barrels of oil a day from the Middle East to customers in Europe and the United States. Several large Egyptian refineries near the canal have been the site of recent protests.

We can use this as a live blog to discuss the situation in Egypt. I’ll continue to add updates if I learn any more about the cause of the pipeline blast.

29 Comments on “Suez Canal Pipeline Attacked”

  1. Dario says:

    That was yesterday. The pipeline carries gas to Jordan. The damage is minimal and the fire is out.

    • It says “Saturday’s explosion” on the Al Jazeera article.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Really? The stories I read said the gas line is shut off.

      • jawbone says:

        Is there now confirmation there was an attach? What I heard and read is that there was an accidental explosion. Now, it seems the Egyptian gov’t is saying it was some Islamist extremists’ action. But, reporters who know they area, say that it if is an attack it’s more likely done by local Bedouins.

        If there’s evidence of what actually happened and the cause, does anyone have a link? Thnks!

        (Go, Pack!)

      • bostonboomer says:

        Hi Jawbone,

        Al Jazeera is still calling it an attack, and supplies are reported to be cut off to Jordan and Israel. It’s odd there hasn’t been more reporting on this. I’m not sure it matters what the cause is. It will still be used to raise prices.

    • bostonboomer says:

      OK, the earliest reports I can find are from about 9-10 hours ago. No one seems to know the cause as yet. If Israel loses 40% of it’s gas supplies, it seems like a big story to me. I’ll keep checking.

      It’s still a top story on Al Jazeera.

  2. Working on some wordpress design stuff right now but just wanted to say thanks for the heads up on this story, bb.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    More from Forbes:

    Who could have caused the blast? Impossible to know. But Israel and Egypt have a common enemy in Iran. In the Wikileaks cables, there’s a report that describes a meeting between Egypt’s newly appointed Vice President Suleiman and the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. The two spend a significant amount of time discussing the threats to the region posed by Iran.

    Suleiman tells Mullen:
    Egypt has “started a confrontation with Hezbollah
    and Iran,” Soliman stressed, and “we will not allow Iran to
    operate in Egypt.” Soliman said Egypt had sent a clear
    message to Iran that if they interfere in Egypt, Egypt will
    interfere in Iran, adding that EGIS had already begun
    recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria. Soliman hoped the U.S.
    would “not walk the same track as the Europeans” in regards
    to negotiating with Iran and warned against only focusing on
    one issue at time, like Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran
    must “pay the price” for its actions and not be allowed to
    interfere in regional affairs. “If you want Egypt to
    cooperate with you on Iran, we will,” Soliman added, “it
    would take a big burden off our shoulders.”

    Shades of WWIII…

    • Dario says:

      AJE live blog Feb 5, 9:15 a.m. Cairo time broke the blast story. Soon after I read that the fire was under control and the damage was minimal, but there was an interruption of gas delivery to Jordan.
      It appears that Bedouin tribesmen are possible suspects.

      AJE: Egypt pipeline blast affects Jordan

      According to Al Jazeera’s sources, eyewitnesses are being interviewed by authorities and the investigation is focusing on some bedouin tribes of Northern Sinai.
      Bedouin tribesmen of the Sinai Peninsula attempted to blow up the pipeline last July as tensions intensified between them and the Egyptian government, which they accuse of discrimination and of ignoring their plight.
      “They do not enjoy the wealth that the state generates from the Sinai peninsula, the money has not benefitted the communities there,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Egypt said.
      “The issue of security is often used in Egyptian politics but many Egyptians say that the tensions inside Egypt have been because of the government itself.
      “Bedouins, arms trade and drug trafficking are some of the internal issues that the central government in Cairo has failed to deal with,” our correspondent said.
      The gas supplies from Egypt also account for 40 per cent of Israel’s gas imports. 
      Although the gas supply route to Israel has not been affected by the explosion, Israeli authorities remain concerned as the events have been unfolding in Egypt over the last few days.
      Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from Jerusalem, said that “Israelis have been very jittery for the last 10 days, if a government comes into power in Egypt that is not sympathetic to Israel then it will present security issues for Israel”.
      “Israel is realising that their good friend [Mubarak] is on his way out, and they are not sure who is on the way in,” he said.

      more at link

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Anderson Cooper leaving Egypt. Brian Williams and Katie Couric already left. The big names don’t have the guts to stick it out in real conflict.

    • I do wish we’d have someone to stick it out, but journos are being targeted. If it was my loved one, I’d beg ’em to come home. They have families to think about too. I mostly agree about the big names not having the guts… just saying, I still sympathize a bit from the family angle.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Sure, but the stars shouldn’t be there in the first place. There are still plenty of journalists over there.

        Fox has actually been covering Egypt more today than CNN, from what I can tell.

      • Fox has actually been covering Egypt more today than CNN, from what I can tell.

        That’s depressing.

    • Dario says:

      That’s why people watch and stay on top of the situation with AJE. It’s tilted, but its tilt is easy to spot. All news organizations are tilted. As someone who is used to reading between the lines (grew up in a dictatorship with controlled media), I can spot biases right away. Americans don’t see the CNN biases because most Americans have not been forced to question everything the media spits out. The way American media bends public opinion is by providing views from pundits towards what the government wants the public to believe.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Reuters: ElBaradei: Egypt protests could get “more vicious”

    ElBaradei, a veteran diplomat, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leading opposition activist, was asked about remarks from senior U.S. officials that Washington could support Mubarak or his new Vice President Omar Suleiman to lead a transitional government in Egypt.

    “If that were true … that would be a major setback, I can tell you that,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview from Cairo.

    “If things that I hear today (are true), that would come down like lead on the people who have been demonstrating,” he said.

    • Dario says:

      I can’t imagine Suleiman getting the job. Washington will have to pick someone more neutral.
      Amr Moussa,
      Nobel laureate, secretary general of the Arab League, is a good candidate because he’d have wide support, but Washington would not be happy because he’d be lean more towards the Arab point of view.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Which job? It appears Suleiman is going ahead with the “transition.” He has announced he won’t run in the election. The problem is if he’s in charge of the “transition,” Egypt will be stuck in the same boat with a president of the U.S. and Suleiman’s choosing. And torture will continue. That’s not democracy.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Story in the Telegraph of the camel and horse riders who attacked protesters in Tahrir Sq.

  7. Dario says:

    It’s too bad Hillary is not president. I can’t help but guess that she knew trouble was coming as the U.S. was pressing Mubarak to make reforms after the fraudulent November 2010 elections.

    Egypt speaker warns US pressure could backfire

    27-11-2010 10:31:35

    Egypt’s parliamentary speaker said Friday that US pressure on Cairo for reforms may backfire and lead to a religious state, in a warning two days ahead of an election preceded by arrests of Islamists.

    “If there is any US pressure on Egypt, it might possibly turn the situation from a separation of state and religion into a religious state,” Fathi Surur, a senior member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), said.

    Washington has become increasingly critical of its ally after the arrests of more than 1,000 Islamist opposition supporters in the run-up to Sunday’s parliamentary poll, and has demanded Egypt allow international monitors for the vote.

    The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group, runs its candidates as independents to circumvent a ban on religious parties.

    At least 1,200 of its supporters have been arrested since October, and it is expected to win fewer seats than the one-fifth of parliament it captured in the last election five years ago.

    Surur said he made similar comments to a group of visiting US foreign policy experts earlier this month.

    One of them, Robert Satloff, is a member of the Working Group on Egypt comprising foreign policy experts who have consulted with President Barack Obama’s administration on Egyptian political reforms.

    Satloff said after meeting Surur that Washington, which had initially distanced itself from the robust policies of Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, wanted to ensure Egypt’s government had legitimacy.

    “The US has an interest that the political process is open and transparent. We are eager for the Egyptian government to be as legitimate as possible,” he said.

    Analysts say Cairo, one of the top beneficiaries of US foreign aid, has used the threat of Islamists sweeping to power to ward off pressure to lift political restrictions in the NDP-dominated country.

    Michele Dunne, a former State Department diplomat who is also a member of the Working Group on Egypt, says US officials are increasingly inclined to view the scenario of Islamists sweeping to power in Egypt as a hollow threat.

    “It has come up in meetings when Mubarak meets with members of Congress,” said Dunne, who is also a Middle East specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    “The idea of of the Brotherhood sweeping to power is a straw man and people in the Obama administration see that,” she said.

    The Brotherhood won most of the seats it contested in 2005, but analysts say that result was partly due to protest votes against the NDP, which has dominated parliament for more than three decades.

    More than a dozen of its candidates have already been disqualified from the election.

    The public prosecutor is considering an NDP request to disqualify more Islamists on the grounds they are misrepresenting themselves as independent.

    Several courts around the country have ordered a cancellation of elections in 24 out of 254 districts because previous court orders to reinstate disqualified candidates, mainly Brotherhood members and other independents, were ignored.

    It is unlikely that the courts’ decisions will be implemented as the government is contesting them.