The Israel Air Force is responsible for two attacks in Sudan in recent weeks, according to reports in the Sudanese media Sunday. The IAF allegedly targeted arms smugglers and killed a number of people, the reports say.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the allegations, and last night the Sudanese army rejected the reports.
According to two Sudanese media outlets, Israel launched two attacks in recent weeks. The outlets, however, don't present a uniform version on the dates. One claims the attacks took place at the end of November and on December 15, the other says they occurred on December 15 and December 18.
The attack at the end of November, one media outlet says, targeted two vehicles in the area of Wadi Al-Allaqi in northern Sudan, near the border with Egypt, and left two people dead and another two wounded.
The second incident, on December 15, saw Apache helicopters over an island off the Sudanese coast. Other reports spoke of Israeli submarine activity off the coast of the African state.
On the other hand, reports appearing in the Al-Intibaha daily speak of an attack on December 15 against a convoy of vehicles that left four civilians dead. The second attack, three days later, also reportedly targeted a vehicle. According to the report, all occupants of the vehicle were killed.
For its part, the Sudanese army has rejected reports of Israeli aerial activity over the country. The Sudanese army spokesman, Col. Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said the country's aerial defense systems had not recorded any infiltration into the country's airspace.
Sudan remains an important way station for arms smuggling from Iran to the Gaza Strip, and there have been reports in the past of Israeli air strikes in the African state. Iran is said to be responsible for most of the arms smuggling via Sudan to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Strip.
In January 2009, media reports told of an Israeli air strike in Sudan against a convoy of dozens of vehicles carrying arms. According to the reports, the attack left dozens dead.
Shortly thereafter, more reports told of a second aerial attack accompanied by Israeli naval commando raids against an arms-carrying ship off the Sudanese coast. In April, another air strike in Sudan killed a Sudanese citizen and, according to the Al-Arabiya television network, a man "holding Arab citizenship who was responsible for arming Hamas."
Last week, the Israeli naval commando, Shayetet 13, received the chief of staff's commendation for excellence. Senior defense officials have also spoken at length recently about "anonymous activities" taking place far from Israel's borders as part of efforts to prevent Iran from providing assistance to terror groups in the area.
Both Israeli and Western intelligence officials have claimed in the past that the Iranians are smuggling weapons into the region along two main routes, including from the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran to Yemen, and from there to a Sudanese port. The arms are then transported overland through Egypt and Sinai to the Gaza Strip, the intelligence officials say.
Meanwhile, as relations between Israel and the newly independent South Sudan warm up, the Sudanese government played down the novelty of those ties. It also rejected media reports that Israeli aircraft recently attacked in eastern Sudan, near the border with Egypt.
Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti dismissed reports claiming that Israeli warplanes had launched two air strikes last week. Speaking to reporters in Khartoum, Karti further sought to dismiss the more general concerns of a new security impact on his country following the surprise visit of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir to Israel last week.
Kiir's visit, he pointed out, was "merely a continuation of the well-established relations between Kiir's Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Jewish State."
Karti added that Israel, which was quick to recognize South Sudan's independence when it was declared in July, has long supported the Christian SPLM's rebellion against the Muslim north with weapons and training. "It is better for the Arab and Islamic world to know the truth of the relationship between the southern state and Israel, which many Arab and African states used to doubt," Karti said.
Kiir visited Jerusalem last week for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. He told the Israeli leaders that South Sudan wants to widen cooperation with Israel, especially in technology, agriculture and water development.