CAIRO: Egypt began exporting gas to Israel last week under the proviso of a 2005 memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries, a decision which has led to outrage from various opposition groups in the country.
“Egyptian gas has been flowing to Israel since last week but it has not yet been integrated into the Israeli network for procedural reasons, an Israeli source told AFP, adding that this integration would occur in the next few days.
The Egyptian gas is being transported via a 100-km-long underwater pipeline from Al-Arish near the troubled Egypt-Gaza border to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The source of the gas is a field in Northern Sinai.
Opposition groups have expressed dismay at the decision in light of the longstanding blockade on Palestinians in the Gaza strip where fuel is hard to come by.
General Secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood Mahmoud Ezzat told Daily News Egypt, “The strange thing in this that those who need this gas the most are the ones who are being killed within Palestine. We should be punishing them for what they’re doing to the Palestinians but the opposite is happening.
According to AFP, the gas is being supplied by a Cairo-based Egyptian-Israeli consortium called East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) which includes Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem and head of Israeli multinational Merhav, Yossi Maiman.
The memorandum stipulated the provision of 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas over 15 years at a total cost of $2.5 billion. AFP also said that another gas contract worth $2 billion over 15-20 years was signed in 2006 by EMG, this time with Dorad energy of Israel.
“We are giving them gas for favorable prices while denying it to those who need it most, Ezzat said.
Waheed Al Aqsari of the Arab Socialist party also voiced his opposition to the new pipeline telling Daily News Egypt, “This is refused totally and we cannot accept this sort of thing, exporting gas to a country that kills Palestinians and practices extreme racism against them. This is surrender to American influence.
“Furthermore I don’t understand the timing of exportation when the agreement was in 2005, he added.
Muslim Brotherhood MPs have called the exportation a “crime and want it stopped because of the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip.
It is known that under the Israeli blockade, Gaza suffered from crippling fuel shortages. When hundreds of thousands of Palestinians descended on Rafah, Egypt last month one of the biggest items sold was Egyptian Solaar gas.
The Palestinian demand for energy was so huge that there was a complete fuel shortage in Rafah, Al-Arish and the surrounding areas for days.
Egypt’s gas production in 2007 totaled 62 billion cubic meters. 28.8 percent of that was exported abroad.