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Sudan blames Israel for mystery blasts

Oct. 26, 2012 at 3:15 PM   |   Comments

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Sudan claims Israel was behind explosions that ripped apart a munitions factory outside Khartoum.

Israel has waged a long-distance war against the regime of President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges for many years.

The Israelis says Khartoum supports Islamist extremists and Iran and allows Tehran to transport weapons and ammunition to Palestinian militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as well as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, one of Israel's principal foes.

It's not clear why the Israelis would want to target the Yarmouk plant, which was attacked Wednesday, but it may have been supplying weapons to part of organizations fighting Israel or the Iranians might have been using it.

Sudan claims the Israeli air force carried out a four-jet strike "coming from the east" on the Yarmouk munitions plant south of Khartoum, causing heavy damage and killing two people.

"They used sophisticated technology," declared Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman.

In the Arab world, that's shorthand for Israel.

There were reports that Sudan's air defenses were jammed electronically, an Israeli trademark, during the alleged attack.

When Israeli F-15s knocked out a nuclear reactor under construction in eastern Syria in September 2007, an electronic warfare aircraft blinded the air-defense system to open up a fire-free corridor to the target.

No one is Israel's admitting any raid was mounted Wednesday, of course, but they're not denying it either.

The government refuses to comment but Amos Gilad, a senior official at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, declared Thursday that Sudan is "a dangerous terrorist state" and was thus asking for trouble.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, a former head of Military Intelligence and military chief of staff, said Sudan is used by Iran "as a base to disseminate terror, in Africa and in our direction too."

"This is one of those episodes where motive, capability and precedent all matter," wrote veteran Middle East observer Ian Black in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"Sudan's angry accusation ... is highly plausible. The attack appears to offer a rare glimpse of a secret war that's been going on for years.

The clandestine arms route to Hamas and Hezbollah runs from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards base at Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf, through the Red Sea to Sudan, then north to Gaza through Egypt and across the Sinai Peninsula.

That's where the Israelis see a potentially dangerous new threat building up around jihadist fighters working with disaffected Bedouin tribes in the vast, rugged wasteland on the Jewish state's southern flank following the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The growing crisis in Sinai, from where Palestinians and jihadists have mounted deadly attacks against Israel in recent months, has occurred as the Muslim Brotherhood has taken power in Egypt.

That has raised deep concerns Israel's historic 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, cornerstone of Israeli policy since then, may be in jeopardy.

All this is happening against a backdrop of growing tension around the Middle East, with Israel bracing for an unprecedented missile and rocket assault on its cities and strategic centers by Iran and its allies in retaliation for threatened pre-emptive Israeli strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

The United States and the Islamic Republic are locked in an armed confrontation in the Persian Gulf over Iran's nuclear program.

Israel's concerned that Islamists will take over in Syria if the Damascus regime of President Bashar Assad is toppled in a worsening civil war that has raged for 19 months and ignite the long quiet northern front.

Clashes with Palestinian militants, and jihadists, in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks has spawned warnings of a new Israeli invasion of the coastal territory south of Israel -- and adjacent to Sinai -- despite the international outcry triggered by a massive incursion there by a 20,000-strong Israeli force in December 2008.

If there was an Israeli airstrike, it involved a flight of some 2,400 miles to Sudan and back, similar to the distance involved in any airstrike against Iran.

Some Israel commentators saw such a raid on Sudan as a warning to Iran.

But the Israelis have done this before. By all accounts, its air force twice attacked arms shipments being trucked through Sudan supposedly bound for Sinai in 2009.

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