Varying reports have emerged this week, stemming originally from statements by Sudan's highways minister Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem, that a convoy was bombed back in January in northern Sudan. Sudan claims the bombing -- which reportedly resulted in 39 deaths -- was carried out by the US, but the US side of the story claims the jets were actually Israeli, according to CBS. From CBS:
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has been told that Israeli aircraft carried out the attack. Israeli intelligence is said to have discovered that weapons were being trucked through Sudan, heading north toward Egypt, whereupon they would cross the Sinai Desert and be smuggled into Hamas-held territory in Gaza.
In January, the U.S. signed an agreement with Israel that calls for an international effort to stop arms smuggling into Gaza. Hamas was showering rockets on Israeli towns, and Israel had responded by invading Gaza. More than 1,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in the December-January war, and 13 Israelis lost their lives.
However, following the highways minister's statements, strange, conflicting reports have emerged from within Sudan. Namely, according to Al Jazeera English, the Sudanese foreign minister Deng Alor said Wednesday, "we have no information about such an attack."
Moreoever, the Al Jazeera report mentions claims of two bombings -- the original January incident plus one in February as well. From Al Jazeera English:
Mabrouk Mubarak Salim, the state minister for highways, said on Thursday that Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans were killed in the attacks in January and February.
CBS said that the jets were targeting weapons convoys heading through Sudan on their way to Egypt, where they would have been taken across the Sinai into the Gaza Strip.
"Sudan used to provide Hamas with weapons but that is not the case any more," Alor said.
Salim said that the air raids hit human traffickers travelling through the desert area and the only weapons in the convoys were small arms being carried by guards.
According to a Haaretz analysis, the bombings were most likely meant to send a strong message to Iran, who has been accused of smuggling weapons into Gaza through various routes, including Sudan. Haaretz's Amos Harel writes:
As the final curtain comes down on the Olmert government, CBS reported a sensational air force bombing of an Iranian weapons convoy in Sudan. If Olmert's critics claim that his main legacy is two wars - one failed (Lebanon) and the other problematic (Gaza) - and the failure to return Gilad Shalit, here is a rebuttal.
What does Iran learn from all this? That Israel possesses exceptional intelligence, a willingness to take great risk, and an ability to act successfully against targets far from Israel's borders. Yet Iran knew all this after the previous strikes. If the reports are true, the bombing in Sudan was an important message of deterrence from Israel to Iran, yet the road from Sudan to the destruction of Iran's nuclear program is a long one.