Amos Gilad: Sudan arming terrorists with Iranian aid

PM, Barak maintain official silence on strike against Khartoum munitions factory.

Khartoum arms fire R370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer )
Khartoum arms fire R370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer )
A top Israeli defense official accused Sudan on Thursday of being a “dangerous terrorist state,” after Khartoum blamed Israel for a Tuesday night air raid on a munitions plant.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, director of policy and political military affairs at the Defense Ministry, refused to address allegations of Israel’s involvement in the attack, which Sudan claims took place at midnight Tuesday on the Yarmouk army factory in southern Khartoum.
“We need time to understand exactly what happened there, but the role of Sudan is clear: It is a dangerous terrorist state,” Gilad told Army Radio.
He accused Khartoum of aiding and abetting terrorism, and said the Sudanese regime was “supported by Iran” and was used as a route to transfer weapons to Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, via Egypt.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday said Israel had nothing to say about the explosion at the arms factory.
Netanyahu’s comments followed those by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who when asked by Channel 2 News about Sudan’s accusations, said: “There is nothing I can say about this subject.”
Sudan called on the UN Security Council to condemn Israel for the attack, which killed two people.
Sudan accused Israel on Wednesday of carrying out an air strike on the military plant, saying it found evidence including rocket debris that the IAF was involved in the attack.
A huge fire broke out at the arms factory, which witnesses said was rocked by several explosions. Firefighters took more than two hours to extinguish the blaze at Sudan’s main factory for ammunition and small arms.
Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said four Israeli planes had bombed the military plant.
According to Sudanese newspaper Al-Rakoba, Osman said that the weaponry used in the attack was not owned by any other country in the region except Israel.
The attacker managed to disable radar at Khartoum airport before the air strike, Osman said, claiming that Israel had previously said that the Yarmouk plant threatened its interests, Al-Rakoba reported.
According to the paper, 60 percent of the plant was destroyed in the attack, with the remaining 40 percent partially destroyed.
Osman said the Sudanese authorities had already begun work to transfer the plant to a location away from the capital, and Israel knew that and took the opportunity to strike it.
Four aircraft came from the east and returned in the same direction, Osman said, adding that Sudan “reserved the right to strike back at Israel.
“We will take more decisive steps towards Israeli interests which we now consider legitimate targets,” Al-Rakoba cited the minister as saying.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) says that Sudan is the central crossroads in a major weapons smuggling route from Iran that then passes through Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula and from there on to the Gaza Strip.
Iran is directly involved in procuring the weapons and helping transfer them to Hamas in Gaza, according to the Shin Bet.
Sudan’s information minister declined to say whether any weapons from Yarmouk had ended up in Gaza, saying that only “traditional weapons in line with international law” were produced there.
Sudan is also an important center for Hamas fund-raising, according to a report by the US-based NEFA Foundation.
The report identified former Sudanese president Abd al- Rahman Siwar al-Dhahab as the deputy leader of the Itilaf al-Khayr (“Union of Good”), a coalition of 50 Islamic charities that funds Hamas.
Sudan’s UN Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman called on the Security Council to condemn the attack, “because it is a blatant violation of the concept of peace and security.
“It jeopardizes peace and security in the entire region, not just in Sudan,” he told the council during a briefing on UN peacekeepers in Darfur.
“We call on you to stop foreign hands from meddling in the Darfur conflict and to help Sudan arrive at a final solution that would maintain peace and security.”
Iran also moved to condemn the attack, and said that Israel was behind it.
The “unjustified aggression” was “certain confirmation of the brutality of the Zionist regime,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported.
Also on Thursday, pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported that the US Embassy in Khartoum closed shortly before the attack, which had led to speculation there that the US may have known about the strike before it happened.
Al-Hayat said the embassy had stopped providing consular services in September, in the wake of riots in response to the anti-Islamic movie Innocence of Muslims, and suggested embassy staff could have feared another attack.
The Hurriyat Sudan newspaper reported on Thursday afternoon that the Sudanese government had waited until it received information regarding the source of the attack before making any official announcements.
Hurriyat Sudan cited an anonymous security expert as saying that while Khartoum was unable to respond to the attack militarily, it reserved the right to retaliate and could do so indirectly.
According to the unnamed source, Sudan could respond by continuing to provide weapons to Palestinian movements in Gaza, by supporting more regional movements that are hostile to Israel, and by targeting South Sudan, which Khartoum believes is cooperating with Israel militarily.
Major damage to the Yarmouk plant would be a blow to Sudan’s army in its battle against insurgencies in the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, bordering rival South Sudan.
Khartoum has blamed Israel for previous strikes.
In May, Sudan’s government said one person had been killed after a car exploded in the eastern city of Port Sudan.
It said the explosion resembled a blast last year that it had blamed on an Israeli missile strike.
Israel declined to comment on the May incident or the 2011 blast, which killed two people.
Khartoum also blamed Israel for two 2009 attacks on a suspected arms convoy in a remote desert area of Sudan, in which up to 40 people were killed.
Sudan had initially accused the US of the attacks but later said they “most probably involved Israel.” Some media reports said the vehicles in the convoy were carrying arms destined for Hamas in Gaza.
In 1998, the United States fired missiles at the El Shifa medicine factory in Khartoum.
US officials said it was producing chemical weapons ingredients and was partly owned by Osama bin Laden, who once lived in Khartoum. Sudan insisted the plant made only pharmaceuticals.
The attack followed the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed at least 226 people, including 12 Americans. The attacks were blamed on al-Qaida.Reuters contributed to this report.