Report: IAF struck arms convoy in Sudan in January
CBS News says Israeli aircraft bombed 17 trucks carrying weapons apparently meant for Hamas about two months ago, reportedly killing 39 people. Report refers to recent agreement to curb smuggling signed by Israel, US. Jerusalem declines comment
|Israeli planes struck in January a convoy of trucks in Sudan that was headed for Egypt and carrying weapons apparently meant for the Gaza Strip, the CBS television network reported Thursday.
According to the report 17 trucks had been bombed and 39 people had been killed in the strike.
The report was not confirmed by Israel.
The CBS report was based on information provided to Pentagon reporter David Martin by his sources, and published on the blog of the network's Washington-based correspondent Dan Raviv.
According to another report, in the SudanTribune.com website, Israel intelligence has tracked down the convoy northwest of the city of Port Sudan, as it was moving north, and the bombing took place near Mount al-Sha’anoon.
The CBS report also mentions an agreement signed between Israel and the US following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that calls for increased international efforts to curb weapon smuggling into Hamas-led Gaza.
"American and Israeli diplomats said the (January) agreement includes intelligence coordination to prevent arms from Iran from entering Gaza, maritime efforts to identify ships carrying weaponry, and the sharing of US and European technologies to discover and prevent the use of weapons-smuggling tunnels," the report said, quoting SudnaTribune.com.
The Sudanese website added that the attack was "an embarrassment" to the local government, which discussed the matter with Cairo in order to gather more information and formulate a response.
One government official, the state Minister for Highways Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem said following the strike: "A major power bombed small trucks carrying arms – burning all of them. It killed Sudanese, Eritreans, and Ethiopians and injured others."
In the beginning of the week Egyptian media reported that American aircraft bombarded a convoy suspected of carrying weapons to Gaza.
Israel’s long arm
Operations in Sudan, Syria indicate that Israel is adopting new approach
|Since the end of the Second Lebanon War, where we tried to show our neighbors that we’ve gone crazy, yet didn’t quite succeed in doing it – something changed in Israel. In the time that passed since then it turned out that not only are we angry, we also have very long arms.
Israel does not take official responsibility for operations deep in enemy territory, yet if they are attributed to Israel by the international media it responds with silence and a wink. This was the case with the bombing of the Syrian reactor in September 2007 and with the “strange accident” at a Syrian missile factory. The same happened when Imad Mugniyah died and when a Syrian general named Suleiman, who was involved in the nuclear project and in coordination vis-à-vis Iran and Hizbullah, was mysteriously assassinated.
Since the early 1990s, Israeli officials have monitored with concern the takeover of radical Islamic elements on Sudan and the establishment of terror group training camps in the country. In recent years, Sudan has become one of the favorite smuggling routes for Iranian intelligence, with arms from Revolutionary Guard bases going through Sudan to Egypt, and then reaching Gaza via the Sinai desert and the underground tunnels at the Philadelphi Route.
Like pouring oil on fire, the regime in Tehran attempts to fan the flames of the conflict. This activity has become critical for the Hamas movement, which has become Iran’s favorite protégé in the wake of the assassination of Sheikh Yassin (who was quite opposed to receiving support from Tehran.) This became particularly true following the outset of Operation Cast Lead and the serious harm caused to Hamas’ arms depots.
For example, Hamas leaders were surprised after the Air Force hit pits prepared in advance containing launchers armed with rockets. There rockets were supposed to be deployed via remote control or a fuse. The Air Force, thanks to accurate intelligence, managed to destroy most of these pits – and Hamas relayed urgent messages to Iran, asking it to renew the supply.
The balance of terror created by the two attacks in Argentina in the wake of the killing of former Hizbullah Chief Musawai prompted Israel to focus on operations against the Hizbullah group only, and not against its mother and father – Iran and Syria.
However, the recent operations attributed to Israel against Iranians arms in Sudan and against Syrian targets are more than a hint that this balance of terror no longer exists.
Ronen Bergman, a correspondent for Israel’s largest daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the “The Secret War With Iran”
Olmert hints: Israel operates everywhere against terror
Amid reports of aerial strike on arms convoy in Sudan in January, PM says 'Israel operates wherever it is possible to harm terror infrastructure.' On peace process: I presented Abbas with unprecedented offer and asked him to sign. That was six months ago; I'm still waiting
|"Israel operates wherever it is possible to harm terror infrastructure in a way that increases our deterrence," outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday amid reports that in January, a weapons convoy in Sudan that was carrying weapons intended for Hamas was struck by the Israeli Air Force.
Earlier in the day Sudanese officials confirmed the reports of the attack, but stopped short of saying who carried it out.
Speaking at a political marketing conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Olmert said "there is no point in going into details, and everyone can use their imagination. Those who need to know – know."
Addressing the Syrian president's statement according to which Israel had already agreed to withdraw from the Golan Heights in the framework of a peace agreement, the PM said "I don't want to get in an argument with Bashar Assad over how close we were to signing a peace agreement. They know that I am aware of what we must give up in order to achieve peace. Had they realized what is required of them, perhaps the gap between us could have been narrowed.
"We must push for a solution, and it is possible to make Syria understand what it must do for the sake of peace," Olmert continued, "to achieve peace, with all of the geopolitical changes it would entail, we'll be forced to make a painful, heart-breaking concession that will be extremely difficult to execute."
As for the Palestinians, the PM said that at some point during the negotiations he had presented President Mahmoud Abbas with "an unprecedented offer that touched on all of the core issues."
"I told him (Abbas), 'come and sign'. That was half a year ago. I'm still waiting."
Final offer: J'lem concessions and settler evictions
Olmert explains offer from Sept. 2008, to which Abbas has yet to respond, which would grant Palestinians 93% of W. Bank and parts of the capital
|Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attempted to clarify Thursday alleged promises he had made in a so-called 'final offer' to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008, which included the eviction of tens of thousands of settlers and territorial concessions in Jerusalem.
"There was one point when I put things on the table and offered Abbas something that had never been offered and dealt with the crux of the problem, with the most sensitive issues that touch the most exposed nerves and historical obstacles," Olmert said during a Thursday conference in Herzliya.
"I told him – 'let's sign.' It was half a year ago and I'm still waiting," he said.
Senior officials said that a meeting of the leaders in the Prime Minister's resident in Jerusalem involved a "final offer to end the conflict." The offer involved a future border between a possible Palestinian state to Israel, involving the eviction of the more than 60,000 settlers living beyond the security barrier in the West Bank – the proposed new border between the two entities.
The offer involved a return of 93% of the West Bank, leaving in Israel the large population centers, such as Ariel and Elkanah in the north, Maaleh Adumim in the center, and Jerusalem and Gush Etzion in the south.
Regarding Jerusalem itself, Olmert offered to cede over to the Palestinians the peripheral neighborhoods and the refugee camps surrounding the city, such as Kalandia. The holy sites, whose sovereignty is desired by all faiths, would be determined within an international framework, the prime minister said.
The plan was also presented to the Americans who, according to the Prime Minister's Office, supported the plan. They apparently also expressed optimism that the offer would be acceptable to the Palestinians.
"Sadly, to this day, the prime minister has not recent an answer from Abbas to the generous offer, which was designed to bring an end to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and bring about the creation of two states for two peoples."
'Egypt is still mediating Schalit talks
Egypt is still mediating talks between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner swap that would include captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, an Egyptian government official said Thursday.
Both Israel and Hamas said earlier this week that talks aimed at freeing Schalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were not over, despite the public breakdown last week of the indirect, Egyptian-mediated contacts. However, there had not been any word until Thursday that contacts had been revived with some momentum.
A prisoner exchange is central to attempts to reach a more lasting truce after Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza ended on Jan. 18 and to help clear the way for reconstruction and humanitarian relief there. The assault against Hamas was intended to stop rocket fire on southern Israel, but sporadic violence has continued.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last week that excessive demands by Hamas prevented a deal and indicated he would turn the matter over to his successor, Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, who is expected to be sworn in next week.
Later, Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said attempts to win the release of Schalit had not stopped. The 22-year-old has been held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006.
At a ceremony marking Schalit's 1,000th day in captivity on Saturday, the soldier's father, Noam, implored Olmert to use his remaining time in office to pursue his son's release.
Olmert had offered to free 320 prisoners of the 450Hamas was demanding. The Islamic group's Syria-based deputy leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk, said on Monday that Israel was trying to change the list of prisoners and wanted to expel some of them from the Palestinian territories.
It was unclear what compromises the two sides might be prepared to make in the renewed effort.
The government official from Egypt's Interior Ministry who confirmed Thursday's contacts spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. He gave no other details.
"Schalit will not see the light of day until our prisoners see it," a Syria-based Hamas leader, Ali Baraka, said on Wednesday, according to Hamas' Web site.
"There are ongoing communications and discussions conducted by the Egyptian mediators which have not been cut off and we hope that the Israelis will respond to our requests," he said.
Israel celebrates 30 years of peace, Egypt doesn't
Israel on Thursday held several state ceremonies celebrating the 30th anniversary of "peace" with Egypt, the Jewish state's first peace treaty with an Arab nation.
Egypt, however, very conspicuously ignored the anniversary. Israeli embassy staff in Cairo said they had not even been invited to a casual cocktail party marking the event, let alone a public ceremony.
Instead, Egypt's leading government-controlled newspaper, Al-Ahram, ran an editorial harshly criticizing Israel, and suggesting that it did not deserve even the cold peace it now has with Egypt.
The paper accused Israel of having a thirst for Palestinian blood, and of scheming against Egypt.