'Israel attacked Gaza-bound arms convoy 3 times'

Sudan: No proof IAF attacked convoy; 'NY Times' quotes sources saying IAF carried out strike.

iaf jet 88 (photo credit: )
iaf jet 88
(photo credit: )
The alleged Israeli air strike in January against weapons bound for Gaza, in which a convoy of trucks was destroyed and at least 39 people were killed was not an isolated incident, but was rather one of at least three attacks, the American news station ABC reported. According to the report, a US official told the station that two of the strikes took place in the Sudan, while a third occurred in the Red Sea. Israel has yet to offer an official response to the allegations. Various statements made by officials in the Sudan and the United States have offered a murky, and somewhat contradictory picture of the alleged clandestine operations. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said Friday there was no proof that Israel attacked a Hamas-bound arms convoy in the country two months ago, Israel Radio reported. A ministry spokesman, Ali Sadiq, said Khartoum was investigating several leads regarding the strike, Israel being one of them. The Sudanese government issued the statement after the US shook off allegations that it was behind the strike. Earlier, US officials confirmed that the IAF did bomb a convoy of trucks in Sudan in January that was believed to be carrying arms for eventual delivery to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The New York Times on Friday quoted two officials as saying that the air strike was part of Israel's efforts to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The two, who the newspaper said are "privy to classified intelligence assessments," further stated that Iran had been involved in the effort to smuggle weapons to the Strip, noting intelligence reports indicating that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards operative had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort. However, the New York Times cited one former official as saying that the exact origin of the arms was unclear. The newspaper also quoted Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the United States Africa Command, as saying that said US forces had not bombed Sudan. "The US military has not conducted any air strikes, fired any missiles or undertaken any combat operations in or around Sudan since October 2008, when US Africa Command formally became responsible for US military action in Africa," he said. The US officials who described the Israeli role declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information and were not authorized to speak for the Obama administration. One American military official said the January strike was one of a series of IAF bombing raids against Gaza-bound arms shipments. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, director of the Program on Israel-Palestinian Relations at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said Israel bombing a weapons convoy in Sudan seemed "very logical." "It fits exactly with the pattern of how Israel operates," he said, according to the Times. Sudanese government spokesman Rabie A. Atti said reports of the strike were emerging now because it took time to fully probe the attack. He also said that "more than 100 people" had been killed in the air raid, not the 39 reported Thursday by CBS News. He denied the trucks that were bombed were carrying weapons. "I've heard this allegation, but it's not true," he said. "It was a genocide, committed by US forces." When asked how he knew the forces were American, Rabie responded: "We don't differentiate between the US and Israel. They are all one." Senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil on Thursday also denied that the convoys were carrying arms bound for Gaza. Meanwhile, a senior Egyptian official was quoted as saying Friday that Cairo knew about an air strike northwest of Port Sudan. Speaking to A-Sharq Alawasat, the official emphasized, however, that Egypt had no knowledge of the attackers or the target. In addition, an Egyptian military expert told the London-based newspaper that if the IAF had indeed bombed an arms convoy, it would not have needed to enter Egyptian airspace or to refuel on its way to Sudan. He said Israeli planes could have reached their target via the Gulf of Aqaba and flown over the Red Sea. Also Friday, Army Radio quoted Israeli officials as warning that the international community would not give the same green light for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. "Western countries have economic and other interests in Teheran, so such an attack would exact a heavy price on the entire world," the officials said.