Israel appears to have made yet another attack on the Iranian supply line to Gaza, via Sudan and Egypt. On October 23rd, Sudan reported that one of their ammunition factories blew up and blamed an Israeli air raid. Many Sudanese believe the bombed factory actually belongs to Iran. Sudan says they have proof it was an Israeli attack, in the form of fragments of Israeli missiles. Israeli officials refused to comment. It was noted that the distance Israeli warplanes had to fly to Sudan was similar to what would have to be covered during a raid on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.
Israel has been attacking the Iranian weapons pipeline for at least five years. The recent attack was documented by subsequent satellite photos showing large craters, like those made by large (one ton and half ton) bombs. The Israelis were apparently aiming for specific targets, like a number of shipping containers that had recently arrived from Iran. Two buildings in the factory compound were destroyed and 21 structures damaged. Not only are the Israelis bombing Sudan, but they are getting good information about what is where and when. This sort of thing has been going on for some time.
For example, in January 2009, Israel sent warplanes down the Red Sea to attack a convoy of trucks, near the Egyptian border in Sudan, carrying Iranian long range rockets destined for Gaza. Iran brings the rockets (and other weapons) in through Port Sudan, and then trucks them to Egypt. Sudan is an ally of Iran and thus does not interfere. Egypt is not a friend of Iran but the border police can be bribed. The January attack destroyed 17 truckloads of weapons and killed the 39 drivers. Since then the smugglers have resorted to individual trucks and the use of small boats moving up the Red Sea coast.
In April 2010, Egypt increased its security on its Sudan border. This was an effort to stop the smuggling of Iranian weapons, to the Gaza border, where they are moved across the border in tunnels. The Egyptian attacks on the tunnel system stops both consumer goods and terrorist supplies (mainly weapons). The Egyptians are mainly concerned with the weapons, which are sometimes used against Egyptian targets. So concentrating on the weapons makes more sense. The major problem Egypt has is its own corruption. When the government orders “something to be done” the bribes grow in size and everyone exercises more discretion. If you are willing to spend enough, which Iran is, you can get the weapons to Gaza.
In August 2010, Egyptian police found and seized three large shipments of weapons in the Sinai desert. Among the items found were 200 Russian made SA-7 portable anti-aircraft missiles. Smugglers got these weapons from Iran, via Sudan. In December 2010, Egyptian police captured more anti-aircraft missiles in an isolated Sinai desert warehouse, apparently headed for Gaza.
In April 2011, a car travelling north, from Sudan towards Egypt, exploded. One of the dead was a Hamas official. Sudan blamed Israel for this, claiming that an Israeli aircraft must have fired a missile. No proof was offered, other than fragments from a Hellfire missile. But these could have been obtained from any number of Islamic terror groups who have lost members to Hellfire attacks. The Sudanese claimed that a U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship was used for the attack. The helicopter was said to have flown in from the sea.
In November and December 2011, Israeli aircraft bombed truck convoys carrying weapons from Sudan to Egypt. The Sudanese military refused to admit that Israeli aircraft were operating over northern Sudan but the Sudanese don't really have the means to prevent it.
In January of this year Israel and the newly independent South Sudan became allies, an arrangement sealed by a visit by the South Sudan president to Israel. For years Israel quietly aided the South Sudan rebels, who are largely Christians or animists. Last year South Sudan became a separate state, and apparently Israeli aid (which has to come in via Kenya) has increased as a result. Israeli has long been on good terms with Kenya and most non-Moslem African nations. Israel and non-Moslem African nations have a common enemy in Islam, and especially radical Islam. As Islamic radicals have become more active in the past four decades, these alliances with Israel have become more popular in Africa.
Last May a local businessman in Port Sudan, Sudan died when his vehicle exploded. The dead man turned out to be a major arms smuggler (to Egypt and eventually Gaza) and the Sudanese government blamed his death on Israel. Sudan denies that it allows weapons to be smuggled into Egypt, but the Egyptian government believes otherwise. Israel denied any involvement with the Port Sudan explosion, as well as with similar events in the past.