WASHINGTON (AFP) – Israeli fighter-bombers were behind a mid-January air strike in the Sudanese desert against suspected Gaza-bound arms convoys, Time magazine reported citing two top Israeli security sources.
Time reported Monday that the attack on a 23-truck convoy was intended as a warning to Iran and other foes, demonstrating Israel’s willingness to act upon its intelligence and strike beyond its borders.
The convoy contained Iranian rockets and explosives headed for Egypt’s border to reach the Gaza Strip during the Israeli strike on the tiny coastal enclave that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, the magazine said in its online edition.
US aircraft were not involved.
“The Americans were notified that Israel was going to conduct an air operation in Sudan, but they were not involved,” a source told Time.
“There was only one raid, and it was a major operation,” he said, denying earlier media reports that a ship and a second convoy were involved.
“Dozens of aircraft” were deployed for the Israeli attack, the source said.
According to the magazine, F-16 fighter-bombers conducted two runs on the convoy, while F-15 fighter planes circled above as a precautionary measure against hostile aircraft.
“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,” a source said, claiming that several Iranians, as well as Sudanese smugglers and drivers were killed in the raid.
“No doubt the Iranians are checking back to see who might have leaked this to the Israelis.”
In early January, during the peak of fighting in Gaza, Israel’s Mossad spy agency was tipped off by an informant that Iran was planning to deliver 120 tons (109 tonnes) of arms and explosives to the enclave, according to Time.
The explosives included anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25-mile (40-kilometer) range and a 99-pound (45-kilogram) warhead.
The Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, has denied that the alleged weapons convoys were destined for the movement.
“First of all we are not sure any convoy has been hit, but it is ironic to link these convoys to Hamas,” one of the movement’s leaders, Salah al-Bardawil, told AFP on Friday.
“Should it turn out that there were raids and a high number of people killed, this would mean Israel is seeking to use the opportunity to blame Hamas and hit Sudan.”
The fact that the Gaza Strip is not a neighbor of Sudan, with Egypt in between, “shows these are false claims,” he added.