A pipeline carrying gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan has exploded after an attack by an armed gang in the north Sinai area of Egypt.

This is the second attack in a month on the pipeline, south of the town of el-Arish, just 30 miles (50km) from the border with Israel. There is widespread opposition to the deal in Egypt because of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

There has also been a lengthy legal battle to ban supplies to Israel, amid claims that the gas was being sold at preferential rates. A ban was imposed by a court then overturned by the Supreme Court last year, though it was never enforced.

The explosion was heard at dawn, and fire was seen reaching as high as 20 meters, stated eyewitnesses.

Neighboring Jordan depends on Egyptian gas to generate 80% of its electricity while Israel gets 40% of its natural gas from the country. Syria also imports gas from Egypt.

Any disruption would force Jordan to rely on more expensive diesel fuel.

The valves controlling the flow of gas from the main terminal in Port Said, on the Mediterranean coast, were shut down to dampen the flames and people living nearby were forced to leave their homes.

However, there have been no reports of casualties.