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Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged silence on Tuesday regarding media reports that the Israel Air Force bombed a Gaza-bound weapons convoy in the Sudanese desert earlier this year.
"I don't believe we are in the privileged position to talk too much," Barak said when asked about the reports during a tour of the northern border. "We must do what needs to be done and keep quiet."
Barak's first comments on the reports came hours after Time magazine revealed that the January attack had been carried out by "dozens of aircraft."
According to Israeli sources quoted in the article, the strike consisted of two bombing runs by F-16s, with F-15s also on hand to provide a quick response in case Sudanese or other aircraft attacked the planes.
After the initial bombing run, the sources said, drones filmed the burning 23-truck convoy. When footage showed that it had not been completely destroyed, the F-16s were dispatched for a second pass.
The report said the aircraft refueled over the Red Sea.
Sources quoted by the report denied that US aircraft had been involved in the strike.
"The Americans were notified that Israel was going to conduct an air operation in Sudan, but they were not involved," a source was quoted as saying. The source also denied reports that the raid had been one in a series of attacks on Iranian arms shipments.
According to the report, the strike was a "warning" to Iran and a show of intelligence capabilities and daring, demonstrating Israel's ability to operate far from its borders.
The attack, the report said, came after the Mossad was tipped off by an informant who said Iran was planning a shipment of 120 tons of weapons and explosives, including Fajr 3 rockets and anti-tank missiles.
"The Israelis had less than a week to pull this all together," a source was quoted as saying.
The Sudan smuggling route had been used before, the source said, but never for such a large delivery.
"This was the first time that the Iranians had tried to send Hamas a shipment this big via Sudan - and it is probably the last," he said, adding that several Iranians were among those killed in the raid.
"No doubt the Iranians are checking back to see who might have leaked this to the Israelis," he said.
The report also quoted a Hamas official who confirmed that there had been an arms convoy headed for Gaza through Sudan, although there had been only 15 trucks carrying far fewer weapons than earlier reports claimed.
He said that Israel was "trying to overplay the quantity" to justify its decision to thwart the delivery.
A Hamas "security official" told Time that the destruction of the convoy was not a serious setback for the organization.
"We have our own 'home delivery' set-up for weapons," he said, citing the Bedouin who are still smuggling arms in large quantities through the network of tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula to the southern Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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