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Masked gunmen blow up Israel-Egypt gas pipeline in Sinai, supply not affected

The explosion comes one week after the new Islamic State leader called on affiliates to launch attacks on Israel
Sinai militants launched over 10 attacks between 2010 and 2012 on pipelines transferring natural gas to Israel, prompting Egypt to cut supplies (file photo/AFP)

Militants blew up a gas pipeline between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Sunday night, though supply is reportedly unaffected.

At least six masked militants planted explosives under a pipeline in the town of Bir al-Abd west of Sinai’s provincial capital al-Arish, security sources told Israel's Haaretz newspaper. The explosion prompted authorities to stop the flow of gas to extinguish the fire, they said.

The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack. 

The masked gunmen drove a four-wheel drive before detonating the explosives, AFP quoted Egyptian security officials as saying.

The sources added that the gas pipeline was a domestic one that connects to a power station in al-Arish, powering homes and factories in central Sinai.

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Israeli gas supply, however, was not affected and continued to flow from Israel to Egypt, the Israeli energy minister’s office said on Monday.

The attack comes one week after the new IS leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, called on the militant group’s affiliates in Sinai and Syria to launch attacks on Israel.

In a statement posted on its Telegram chat groups, as quoted by AFP, IS said "caliphate soldiers targeted... the natural gas line linking the Jews and the apostate Egyptian government".

It claimed that the section of the pipeline hit was in the Sinai village of al-Teloul and that several explosive devices were used to blow it up, causing "material damage".

Middle East Eye could not independently verify the IS statement. 

Landmark deal

Israel began pumping natural gas to Egypt in January following a landmark deal worth $19.5bn between US-based Noble Energy and Israel's Delek Drilling and Dolphinus Holdings, a private Egyptian company majority-owned by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.

The pipeline is owned by the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which includes a subsea connection between al-Arish in Sinai and Ashkelon in Israel.

The partners in the Israeli Leviathan offshore gas field, Noble Energy, Delek Drilling and Ratio, said on Sunday that the attack did not affect their operations.

"The EMG pipeline stretching between Egypt and Israel wasn't harmed, nor the pipelines through which the gas is transported from Leviathan. The flow of gas from Leviathan is proceeding as normal,” they said in a statement.

Prior to the latest gas deal, Egypt had begun supplying Israel with natural gas in 2008 via a pipeline that passes through Sinai.

But the supply was disrupted more than 10 times between 2010 and 2012 when Sinai militants carried out similar attacks targeting the pipeline.