OIL DEAL: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) meets Israeli Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer in Cairo in 2005. (AFP)
Egypt has started exporting gas to Israel in accordance with a 2005 deal, an Israeli source said on Monday, with the move set to irk the countryâ€™s powerful Islamist opposition.
â€œEgyptian gas has been flowing to Israel since last week but it has not yet been integrated into the Israeli network for procedural reasons,â€ the source told newswire AFP, adding that the pipeline would be fully integrated â€œin a few daysâ€.
The new underwater pipeline runs 100 kilometres (63 miles) from the Egyptian Mediterranean city of El-Arish to the Israeli port of Ashkelon, supplying gas pumped from a gasfield in the north of the Sinai peninsula.
The Egyptian side has remained virtually silent on its progress since a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2005.
The MOA provided for the export by an Egyptian-Israeli consortium, East Mediterranean Gas (EMG), of 1.7 billion cubic metres (60 billion cubic feet) of gas a year over 15 years for a total of $2.5 billion.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with the Jewish state, but since then the nation has refused â€œnormalisationâ€ of relations until Israel hands back occupied Arab lands.
Egyptâ€™s Muslim Brotherhood opposition, which controls a fifth of seats in parliament, is opposed to exporting gas to Israel because of what it calls the countryâ€™s punishing blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Brotherhood MPs have said that the Egyptian government is committing a â€œcrimeâ€ against the Palestinian people by supplying Israel with gas.
Shareholders in the Cairo-based EMG include Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem and Yossi Maiman, who heads the Israeli multinational Merhav.
Another gas supply contract was signed in 2006 between Israelâ€™s Dorad Energy and EMG, worth two billion dollars over 15 to 20 years. Dorad is due to complete Israelâ€™s first private power generator in Ashkelon by the end of 2009.
Egyptâ€™s national gas production in 2007 was 62 billion cubic metres (2,135 billion cubic feet), according to the oil ministry, of which 28.8% was exported.