Sudan claims that Israel was behind an April 5 missile strike on a car in Port Sudan that killed a top Hamas terror operative.
Two men were incinerated in a Hellfire missile attack that evening, including Abdul-Latif Ashkar, a senior member of the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes that Ashkar was reportedly a founder of Hamas' "aid and logistics department."
Hamas denied any connection to either of the dead men, but Palestinian sources contradicted this. The Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported that Ashkar was the successor to senior Hamas terror operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated in Dubai last year, presumably by Israel.
The Sudanese claim to be victims of Israeli aggression. But since seizing power in 1989, the Islamist dictatorship there has collaborated with Iran. Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps helped deliver military assistance and training to Khartoum. Last year, Sudanese opposition media reported that Iran runs a weapons factory in Sudan which provides arms to Hamas.
Many of the weapons coming from Sudan cross Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and are smuggled into Gaza using sophisticated tunnels financed by Iran. Schanzer notes that Wikileaks cables show that Washington warned Sudan over the flow of Iranian arms to Gaza during the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas two years ago. A March 2009 cable showed that the United States knew of Iranian plans "to transship military equipment from Syria to Sudan, to be transferred to Hamas."
In early 2009, Israel is believed to have launched a series of raids against targets in Sudan to prevent Iranian arms smuggling into Gaza. Sudanese officials said the attacks included two airstrikes in the eastern desert and the sinking of a ship carrying weapons in the Red Sea.
The Israeli operations in Sudan can be viewed as an extension of Israel's ongoing efforts to prevent Iranian proxies such as Hamas and Hizballah from firing rockets into Israeli territory. This has become much more difficult for Israel with the collapse of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government, Schanzer writes:
"Indeed, Israeli defense officials report that Egypt recently halted construction of an underground steel wall designed to stop weapons smuggling along its border with Gaza. This makes the operations in Sudan all the more vital in stemming the flow of Iranian weapons."