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Apr 28, 2011

Ask a Bedouin - What is a Palestinian?...

Attack on Egyptian pipeline leaves Israel and Jordan's energy supply at risk

on Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The recent spate of uprisings that swept throughout the Middle East and North Africa resulted in the overthrow of the Egyptian and Tunisian governments. As Egypt moves to shift its political model from autocratic rule to a democracy, it faces a myriad of challenges. On Wednesday, a bomb detonated on a natural gas pipeline, halting the supplies from reaching electric power plants in Israel and Jordan.

The Wall Street Journal reports the supply chain disruption is the second such event in the last three months in the North African country. The explosion occurred during the early morning hours on Wednesday when five masked gunmen attacked a measuring station located about one mile outside of the Sinai town of El Arish.

Though no one was injured during the attacks, the effects of the blast are far-reaching, according to analysts. While no group has claimed responsibility as of yet, suspicions are largely aimed at Bedouins, a sect that has been battling Egyptian security forces for several years in the region.

With the Egypitian government struggling to transition to a democratic model, the attack spurred concerns that the country's security forces might be ill-equipped to protect infrastructure - especially pipelines that are so critical to Israel and Jordan's power supply. The early February explosion of a pipeline resulted in supply interruptions to the country's border nations for 38 days. The pipe that was attacked on Wednesday supplies nearly 25 percent of Israel's electricity network.

Israel, which is known for its expansive security apparatus and military, has beefed up security on the border between the countries, and following the February attacks it allowed Egypt to deploy additional personnel to protect its interests in Sinai.

In Israel, the country's citizens are criticizing the supply agreement with Egypt that was struck in 2005 and annexed to the peace treaty between the countries that has endured for the past 32 years. According to critics, the supply chain leaves Israel vulnerable to similar attacks and could potentially affect its economic output if further cuts in electricity occur.

"The Egyptian administration has a clear interest in a clear policy in providing the gas. And only the Egyptian regime can resolve the matter," Israel's director of the defense ministry's political security staff, Amos Gilad, said in an interview with Israel Radio. "The sabotage is not directed against Israel, but has to do with problems relating to law enforcement in Sinai."

A cutoff like the one that happened on Wednesday forces Israel and Jordan to rely on alternative, more expensive energy sources, including coal and diesel fuel to fuel their power plants.

Nonetheless, the latest attack won't cut off Israel's electric supply, according to the country's national infrastructure minister, Uzi Landau.

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