Egyptian police beefed up security around a Sinai peninsula pipeline that supplies Israel with natural gas after a group of Bedouin threatened to sabotage it, security officials said on Monday.
Security was also increased in the area of the Arab Gas Pipeline which supplies gas to Syria and Jordan, after an unidentified person reportedly blew up part of the pipeline between Arish and Taba on the same day.
Security officials say police have received warnings from a group of Bedouin threatening to attack the Egypt-Israel pipeline. The Bedouins, who are reported to include at least a dozen armed men wanted by the police, clashed with police forces after their leader Salim Lafi escaped from a prison truck in an ambush that resulted in the death of one policeman in February.
Lafi had been sentenced to prison after Bedouin tribesmen briefly held tens of policemen in response to the deaths of three Bedouin during a protest in November 2008.
Rights groups have criticized Egypt’s approach toward the Bedouin, who have been subjected to harsh treatment since a series of bombings in Sinai resorts between 2004 and 2006 in which tens of Egyptians and foreign tourists died.
Police relations with Sinai Bedouin are usually tense, with Bedouin complaining of routine harassment and discrimination.
A senior official in the Ministry of Petroleum told Al-Masry Al-Youm that engineers from the companies Petrojet and Enppi have been repairing the destroyed sections of the Arab Gas Pipeline, six kilometers from the village of Gifen.
Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmi refused to comment on the alleged sabotage, after visiting the site of the explosion to inspect repairs being made. An official at the ministry described the subject as sensitive and said the ministry will not be able to issue a formal statement confirming or denying reports until all details have been clarified.
The 240km-long Arab Gas Pipeline carries gas from Egypt to Jordan and Syria. Official data issued by the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation shows that the pipeline transfers seven thousand metric tons of natural gas daily on average.
The pipeline between Egypt and Israel has since 2008 supplied Israel with 1.7 billion cubic meters (60 billion cubic feet) of gas per year–despite angry opposition to the supply deal within Egypt. Egypt provides about a third of Israel’s natural gas, according to an Israeli infrastructure ministry spokeswoman.