TerrorismIsraeli planes destroy Sudanese arms factory suspected of producing chemical weapons for Hamas
Earlier this morning Israeli planes destroyed the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital – 1,300 miles from Israel; in 1998 the plant was suspected of holding Iraqi chemical weapons which Saddam Hussein wanted to conceal from the UN inspectors; Sudan has become a major corridor of arms for Hamas, and Israel has conducted several military operations inside Sudan aiming to disrupt shipments of arms to Hamas; in April 2011 Israeli special forces, ferried by helicopters into Sudan, ambushed and killed two high-level Hamas officials who were on their way to Libya to finalize a deal, financed by Iran, to buy about 800 chemical munitions from anti-Qaddafi rebels who had taken over a couple of chemical weapons depots from the pro-Qaddafi forces
Sudan’s defense minister earlier today said that four Israeli military planes attacked and destroyed an arms factory in Khartoum, the capital, around midnight Sudan time. The distance from Israel to Kahrotum is 1,300 miles. The attack ignited a huge fire in the destroyed facility and neighboring buildings.
Sudan has been serving as major corridor for arms supplies to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Some of the arms come from Iran and China, and others are being manufactured in Sudan itself. The arms are being loaded onto ships, which unload their cargo on the western coast of the Sinai Peninsula, where Bedouins, who are paid by Iran, ferry them north to the Gaza Strip.
Israel has conducted military operations in Sudan in the past, aimed to disrupt the weapons shipments to Hamas. In late January 2009, Israeli planes destroyed a military convoy, consisting of dozens of trucks, on its way to the coast. The attack killed 119 people. In February 2011 Israeli planes attacked and sank a Sudanese ship, carrying arms and military gear, as it left Port Sudan on its way to the Sinai. In April 2011 Israeli special forces, ferried by helicopters into Sudan, ambushed and killed two high-level Hamas officials who were on their way to Libya: anti-Qaddafi rebels had taken over a couple of chemical weapons depots from the pro-Qaddafi forces, and Iran paid rebel leaders millions of dollars for about 800 chemical munitions to be delivered to Hamas. The Hamas officials were on their way to Libya to finalize the deal, but their death scuttled the deal.
Haaretz notes that on Wednesday, senior officials in Jerusalem refused to comment on Israel’s possible involvement in the incident.
“Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant … We believe that Israel is behind it,” Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman told reporters, adding that the planes had appeared to approach the site from the east.”
“Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel,” he said, saying two citizens had been killed and that the plant had been partially destroyed.
Sudanese officials showed journalists a video from the site. A large crater could be seen next to two destroyed buildings and what appeared to be a rocket lying on the ground. Osman said an analysis of rocket debris and other material on the ground had shown that Israel was behind the attack.
Haaretz reports that the powerful explosion at the military factory shook Sudan’s capital before dawn Wednesday, sending detonating ammunition flying through the air and causing panic. News agencies report that thick black smoke covered the sky over the Yarmouk Military Industrial Complex in southern Khartoum. Sudan’s media reported that nearby buildings were damaged by the blast, their roofs blown off and their windows shattered.
Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein and senior officials visited the site of the explosion and held an emergency meeting with top army generals. The police sealed off the area surrounding the complex and halted traffic.
It appears that the attack on Yarmouk in Khartoum plant is not unrelated to the killing of the two Hamas operatives on their way to Libya. Haaretz notes that in 1998, Human Rights Watch published a report based on information from Sudanese opposition organizations which said that the Yarmouk plant was used to store chemical weapons for Iraq – weapons Saddam Hussein wanted to hide from the Un inspectors . Sudan denied the allegations at the time.
It was also in 1998 that the United States launched cruise missiles to bomb a Khartoum pharmaceutical factory which was suspected of links to al Qaeda. The attack followed the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 people.
Israel’s penchant for daring long-range operations has been noted in the past. We recall a speech the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert gave on 26 March 2009 in an academic gathering in Herzlyia, outside Tel Aviv. He may have been referring to Israel’s covert campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, or to the efforts to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East by preventing it from arming its two regional agents, Hamas and Hezbollah. Perhaps he was referring to a more general Israeli strategy in its own war on terror.
He warned Israel’s adversaries that Israeli forces, in defending the country, were operating “near and far.”
We are operating in every area in which terrorist infrastructures can be struck. We are operating in locations near and far and attack in a way that strengthens and increases deterrence. It is true in the north and in the south … there is no point in elaborating. Everyone can use their imagination. Whoever needs to know, knows.