Sunday Times Report Details Alleged IAF Strike on Sudan Arms Factory

The U.K. paper claims that Israel targeted an Iranian-run missile factory in Khartoum last week; Sudan has accused Israel of bombing the military complex, killing two people.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

The British Sunday Times has published a detailed report on what it claims was an Israeli attack on an Iranian-run missile factory in Sudan last week.

The Sunday Times regularly reports at length on Israeli secret operations, Sunday's piece by the paper's reporters in Tel Aviv and Nairobi is based on Israeli and western "security sources" and claims that the attack was carried out by the Israeli Air Force and includes details on the strike-force, the stages of the attack and the target. Not all the details tally with other known facts.

According to the paper, the attack was carried out in the early hours by four two-seater F-15I "Ra'am" fighter-bombers, each carrying two one-ton bombs and accompanied by four additional F-15s providing air-cover in case Sudanese Mig-29 fighters attempted to intercept. Along with the fighters were two CH-53 "Yasur" helicopters carrying teams of IAF search-and-rescue commandos in case air-crew from a downed fighter needed extracting from enemy territory.

The fighters were refueled en-route by a Boeing 707 "Re'em" aerial tanker and a Gulfstream 550 "Shavit" executive, adapted for electronic warfare, jammed the Sudanese radar and air-defense systems. According to the report, the fighters took off from a Negev airbase and flew for four hours over the Red Sea on a round route of 3,900 kilometers.

The newspaper reports that during the assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai two years ago, Mossad Agents obtained a signed agreement between Iran and Sudan regarding the manufacture of arms in Sudan under the supervision of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. According to the report, the operation was carried out under the direct supervision of IAF Commander Major General Amir Eshel and was planned over a long period which included two long-range exercises. Eshel and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz supervised the mission from IAF command post at the Kirya in Tel Aviv and updated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon completion. The American administration received advance notification and the U.S. embassy in Khartoum was closed as a precaution.

According to a "military source" quoted in the report, two central challenges in the attack were to evade detection by Egyptian radar and air-traffic control in neighboring Djibouti. The jamming and evasive tactics seemed to have worked, as no Sudanese fighters were launched against the attackers.

Most of the details in the British paper's report are similar to those that have been published in foreign reports on the Israeli attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor at Deir a-Zour five years ago in September 2007. Some of the details seem unlikely, including the claim that the target was a factory building Shahab ballistic missiles which were meant for Hamas and other Iranian allies in the region - it is highly improbable that Iran would allow manufacture of its most advanced missile outside its territory and organizations such as Hamas (which has poor relations with Iran recently) and Hezbollah have no use for a missile with a range of thousands of kilometers. Also from satellite images of the strike's results, it seems that the target was not the factory but storage containers held nearby, which indicates that the mission's objective was an arms shipment and not weapons manufacturers.

Neither does one of the more colorful details in the report, that the squadron commander flew low over the target after the bombing to survey the damage make much sense. The IAF, if indeed it carried out the attack, has advanced unmanned reconnaissance systems capable of gauging the strike's success without risking air-crew over enemy territory.

Fire engulfing the Yarmouk ammunition factory in Khartoum in October 2012.Credit: Reuters
The Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, Sudan seen in a satellite image made on Oct. 25 2012, following the alleged attack.Credit: AP

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