'Armed Gang' Attacks Egypt-Israel Gas Pipeline

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Egyptian authorities shut down the main source of natural gas to the pipeline supplying Israel, Jordan and Syria on Wednesday after an "armed gang" attacked the terminal for the second time this month.

"Authorities closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline and are working to extinguish the fire," an Egyptian security official told Reuters, saying the saboteurs were "an unknown armed gang." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press.

Following the attack, the Israel Electric Company announced it would use approved alternate fuels to ensure that service is not disrupted.

Wednesday's attack was the second in less than a month on the al-Sabil gas terminal near el-Arish, 30 miles south of the border with Israel in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

In March, the Egyptian military diffused an explosive device at the gas terminal, and in February -- during the 18-day uprising that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak's regime -- gunmen tried to sabotage the terminal.

Israel receives 40 percent of its natural gas from Egypt in a 15-year deal brokered with the former government. Earlier this month, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said Egypt would not only renegotiate the deal, but would demand that Israel pay back the money it saved during Mubarak's regime.

"We will demand from Israel the price differences of the gas exported to Israel during the previous regime," al-Arabi said. The new government also announced its intent to prosecute the former energy minister and six other officials for revenues lost on the natural gas deal with Israel.

The good news is the recent discovery of the world's largest natural gas reserves 80 miles off Israel's coast.

In December 2010, Israel, working with the Texas-based Noble Energy, discovered a huge natural gas deposit off the coast of Haifa, Israel's northern port city. Experts estimate the deposit, dubbed "Leviathan," contains as much as 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a discovery that may not only supply the Jewish state, but also make it an exporter of natural gas in the region.

Meanwhile, Jordan generates 80 percent of its electricity from the gas purchased from Egypt, so it too will have to find alternatives should that become necessary. Syria also buys natural gas from Egypt.

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