Arab Gas Pipeline’s explosion | Perpetrators remain unknown… Blame is pointed at Syrian regime and allies… and Syrian people are always the only victims
As incidents, attributed to unknown perpetrators, crop up in regime-controlled areas in the wake of the escalating security chaos, Syrian Observatory sources reported on August 24 violent explosions in Rif Dimashq. It was found later that these explosions were caused by the blowing up of the Arab Gas Pipeline in the area between Al-Dumayr and Al-Ruhayba in Rif Dimashq. The explosions caused large fires which lasted then for hours before being extinguished by the fire brigades. No casualties were reported at that time, but the explosions caused significant material damage.
The area of western Qalamoun, where the gas pipeline runs through, has been the major gate to the Syrian desert where ISIS members pulled out after being expelled from several strongholds in the recent years.
It is worth noting that this area also experiences sporadic tension since the start of the Syrian war, especially with the Russian-Iranian conflict, evident in the Russian ongoing efforts to eliminate the Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias there. In addition, the area experienced many reconciliations with former opposition fighters after regime forces captured it in 2018. Accordingly, the area hosts many ex-fighters who have joined regime forces and security services after settling their security situations.
The identities of the perpetrators who blew up the Arab Gas Pipeline remained unknown. It is worth noting that pipelines in regime-controlled areas had been repeatedly attacked, in which indictments brought against unknown individuals, which shed light on accusations leveled at regime forces and allies of “committing such attacks” for personal interests and framing “terrorist groups”. In previous incidents, SOHR sources confirmed that the Syrian regime and its allies were involved in blowing up gas pipelines. However, the regime and its allies claimed that the perpetrators were ISIS members.
The Arab Gas Pipeline
The targeted part of the Arab Gas Pipeline is the third section out of the pipeline, which extends from Jordon to Deir Ali area in Rif Dimashq, Syria. It is worth noting that the Arab Gas Pipeline was agreed to be constructed in 2000 in order to export Egyptian natural gas to “Mashriq” (the eastern part of the Arab world) and Europe, via several sections and segments.
The first section of the Arab Gas Pipeline runs from Arish city in northern Egypt to Aqaba in southern Jordan, while the second section extends from Aqaba to Al-Rehab area, also in Jordan, where the Egyptian gas pipeline meets the Saudi gas pipeline near the Syria border.
The Arab Gas Pipeline runs through approximately 350 km of Syrian territory, and was commissioned in 2005. The pipeline would have been extended to the Turkish city of Killis, then to be connected to Nabucco Pipeline for the delivery of gas to Europe.
This intercontinental gas pipeline is of a great economic importance, which is manifested in the following:
- It brings in high revenues to the countries it runs through, including Syria.
- It has a considerable role to transport nature gas from and to several countries.
- This pipeline connects most of the gas fields controlled by the Syrian regime together, including Al-Raqqah, Deir Ezzor, Al-Sha’er and Hayyan.
- It is used for delivering gas from these fields to the Syrian thermoelectric power plants, since it has a leading role in supplying these power plants which produce electricity in southern Syria.
The main section of the Arab Gas Pipeline is 36 inches in diameter, and has the capacity to transport seven to eight million m3 (cubic meters) of gas every day. The pipeline provides many services of gas transport to several Arab countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
It is worth nothing that this is the sixth time this pipeline had been targeted in the same area, as similar incidents had been reported earlier.
For example, on December 21, 2019, al-Rayyan gas station, Homs oil refinery and gas installation of central region were targeted by drones, causing fire in those areas after some pipes and oil refinery furnaces exploded.
Similarly, on July 14, 2019, the pipeline, which transports gas between the Al-Sha’er field and the Ibla gas plant in eastern city of Homs, was put out of service after being targeted by unknown assailants. The targeted pipeline transports daily more than two million cubic meters of gas to the Ibla gas installation, and then to the power plants.
Different attitudes towards the attacks
James Jeffrey, the US special envoy for Syria, told journalists in Geneva that “the United States was still looking into who was responsible for the pipeline attack in Syria.”
“But it was almost certainly an attack by ISIS,” Jeffrey said.
A few days ago, the Commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General Frank McKenzie, confirmed that ISIS members are moving freely in areas controlled by the Syrian regime, particularly west of the Euphrates River. And the United States and its allies have little hope that the Syrian regime will do something to eliminate the group there, warning that everyone should be concerned about it.
As for the Syrian regime, the Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources in the caretaker government said that “the main pipeline supplying the southern region has been struck by an explosion that may have been caused by a terrorist act.” Also, the Syrian prime minister accused the opposition of blowing up the gas pipeline supplying power plants in Syria.
On the other hand, the Syrian opposition accused the regime of being behind the attack, coinciding with the meetings of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva in order to disrupt its work.
They also condemned the attack despite the fact that the site is entirely secured by military forces and members of the security sectors. In addition, there are a number of other gas pipelines in this region, however, the attack targeted only the Arab Gas Pipelines.
Meanwhile, ISIS has not claimed responsibility for the attack, although it has claimed earlier responsibility for many attacks on gas fields.
The aftermath of the explosion
The explosion of the Arab Gas Pipeline resulted in a dropin the gas pressure in Deir Ali power plant, which, in turn, caused a large amount of gas wastage, and consecutively, put the rest power plants out of service, including Al-Naseriyyah, Teshrin and Jender, which caused total blackout across most of the Syrian provinces. It is worth noting that the energy sector in Syria suffers from major impairment which is attributed to several factors, most prominent of these factors are the following:
- The fact that the Euphrates and Teshrin dams have been put out of service.
- The capture of the eastern Syria region’s oil and gas by Syria Democratic Forces.
- The Russian forces’ grip on gas in Palmyra region.
It is worth noting that, in most of Syrian territory, power outages last for more than 15 hours a day.