'Israeli Attack' on Sudanese Arms Factory Offers Glimpse of
Bombing of factory in Khartoum is neither confirmed nor denied
by Israel, but there are precedents for this sort of attack
By Ian Black
Middle East editor
Guardian" - -
-No one in Israel is admitting that its pilots carried out a
long-range raid against a munitions factory in Sudan, said to be
supplying weapons to the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza
But no one is denying it either. Amos Gilad, a senior defence
ministry official, ducked a direct question, praising the
capabilities of Israel's air force and calling Sudan "a
dangerous terrorist state".
This is one of those episodes where motive, capability and
precedent all matter. Sudan's angry accusation that Israel
bombed the Yarmouk factory in Khartoum is highly plausible. The
attack appears to offer a rare glimpse of a secret war that has
been going on for years.
Israel could mount a raid like this using F-16 fighters, flying
south along the Red Sea coast, under Saudi and Egyptian radar
and with aerial refuelling. It would take about two and a half
hours each way. Experts say drones could also be used. The same
long-range capability could allow it to strike nuclear
facilities in Iran.
Another tantalising glimpse of this clandestine war came in
January 2010, when suspected Mossad agents assassinated Mohammed
Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. Mabhouh was described as the link man
between Hamas and Iran. The following year a mysterious missile
strike on a car near Port Sudan airport killed his replacement.
Hamas denied the story while Sudan called the attack a
"desperate Israeli attempt" to smear the country's image and
scupper its bid to be removed from the US list of state sponsors
of terrorism. Sudan has denied allowing weapons-smuggling
through its territory.
Detailed evidence of Israel's efforts to block arms shipments to
Hamas (and to Hezbollah in Lebanon) surfaced in WikiLeaks
documents published by the Guardian. They demonstrated that
Sudan was warned by the US in January 2009 not to allow the
delivery of unspecified Iranian arms that were expected to be
passed to Hamas in Gaza around the time of Israel's Cast Lead
offensive, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
Israeli media has reported that the Israeli air force carried
out at least two secret operations in Sudan in January and
February 2009. The first involved the bombing of a convoy
carrying arms through Sudan to Gaza, in which 119 people were
killed. And a ship at a Sudanese port was bombed from the air.
Sudan accused the US of carrying out these attacks. In June that
year Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, told US
officials there was "a steady flow of Iranian weapons to Gaza
through Sudan or Syria and then by sea".
Only rarely did the US cables show evidence of direct Israeli
requests to the US to block arms deliveries. But in one meeting
in 2009 a senior US state department official noted: "Most
requests to third countries to deny arms transfer overflights
are based on Israeli intelligence. Additional
information/intelligence from the government of Israel would
ensure greater co-operation."
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