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Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that Israel had carried out "a series of actions" north and south, hinting at strikes in areas such as Sudan, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Horn of Africa.

"Israel hits every place it can, near and far, to stop terror," Olmert told a conference in Herzliya.

Earlier yesterday, two senior Sudanese politicians confirmed that unidentified aircraft attacked suspected arms smugglers moving weapons from Sudan to Gaza, via Egypt, killing almost everyone in the convoy. The American news network CBS reported the attack in Sudan was carried out by the Israel Air Force against smugglers working for Hamas.

According to the report, 39 people riding in the 17-truck convoy were killed, while a number of civilians in the area were injured.

Citing "two senior Sudanese politicians" yesterday, Reuters reported that "unidentified aircraft attacked a convoy of suspected arms smugglers as it drove through Sudan toward Egypt in January, killing almost everyone in the convoy."

Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny whether Israel had been involved in an air strike in Sudan.

In recent years, Israel has carried out several actions in the area. The Israeli Navy captured Karine A, a ship carrying weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip, in 2002. A few weeks ago American war ships intercepted a ship carrying arms from Iran to Syria.

Israel sees the area as strategically important. In recent years the marine route has become a major supply path for Iranian arms to the Palestinians - first to the Palestine Liberation Organization and then to Hamas in Gaza. Iran helps Sudan with oil, money and weapons in exchange for using the route.

The United States has been keeping a close watch on the Tehran-Khartoum relations as part of its campaign against "global terror." The U.S. operates military and CIA units, satellites and airplanes in the area, among other things, to stop Iran from obtaining materials for its nuclear and missile programs.

CBS alluded to these interests, which Israel shares with the U.S. CBS correspondent Dan Raviv said that "if Israeli airplanes carried out the attack in Sudan, it would suggest that there is a shadow war against Hamas and its weapons sources that is wider than the Israeli or U.S. government has revealed."

If the report is accurate it alludes to the intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. in the war on Hamas and its supply sources.

The cooperation was reflected in the agreement signed by Israel and the U.S. at the end of Operation Cast Lead, undertaking to use all the means at their disposal to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza. The agreement has secret appendices assumed to deal with intelligence cooperation and joint operations.