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The Arab Winter of Rage

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Sudan Vows Retribution for Alleged Attack by Israel

October 24th 2012

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

The minister of information for Sudan’s Islamist government accused Israel of attacking an arms factory in the East African nation’s capital, Khartoum. According to Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman, "Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant ... We believe that Israel is behind it," adding that "the planes had appeared to approach the site from the east." Various news sources, including Al Jazeera and Reuters have reported on the October 24 incident that has been attributed to Israel. Osman also told reporters, "Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel," for the deaths of two Sudanese citizens and the partial destruction of the arms factory.

"We are now certain that this flagrant attack was authorized by the same state of Israel. The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty," Osman said. He said that his government will take up the issue with UN Security Council. According to a spokesman for Sudan’s military, the incident happened just past midnight. "Israel is a country of injustice that needs to be deterred," Vice President Ali Osman Taha, standing next to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, told a mob of hundreds that gathered in Khartoum on October 24. "This attack only strengthens our resolve."

Senior Israeli officials have refused comment on Sudan’s accusations. The Sudanese have blamed the Jewish state in the past for similar strikes in the past, but Israel has neither confirmed or denied the reports. In 2009, a convoy carrying weapons in northeastern Sudan was destroyed from the air, resulting in the deaths of scores of Sudanese. Sudan accused Israel for carrying out the attack in order to stymie arms shipments destined to terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Some analysts hold that Sudan, from which the majority Christian South Sudan broke away in 2011, is a conduit for arms and materiel destined for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip through neighboring Egypt. For his part, Sudan’s Information Minister Osman said, "We are now certain that this flagrant attack was authorized by the same state of Israel. The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty."

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the governor of the Khartoum region had initially ruled out any "external" cause for the blast. However, officials in Sudan showed journalists a video from the site that reveals a huge crater adjacent to two destroyed buildings and what was apparently the remains of a missile on the ground. Osman claims that an analysis of rocket debris and other material on the ground had shown that Israel is the author of the attack. Video taken during the pre-dawn hours  local time on October 24 showed a conflagration at the plant. The powerful explosion ripped through the military installation. Panic ensued as munitions began to cook off as the explosion and resulting fire caused detonations, according to Sudan’s official news agency and local media reports said.

Acrid black smoke rose over the sky in southern Khartoum following the blast. Neighboring buildings were damaged by the blast and fire. The roofs were ripped off by the shock, and windows shattered. Video taken at the scene showed phosphorescent fireballs ascending into the sky, as orange flames licked the charred ruins. Security forces soon sealed off the plant as Sudanese Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein and senior officials visited. They later held an emergency meeting with military brass to consider next steps. The governor of Khartoum reportedly told local press that an investigation is now underway.

Human Rights Watch published a report in 1989 contending that the Yarmouk plant was used to store chemical weapons for Iraq. Sudan vehemently denied the allegations. Also that year, the Clinton administration resorted to the use of cruise missiles to destroy a Kharoum pharmaceutical factory believed to be linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. This followed deadly attacks by al-Qaeda on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In those latter two incidents, 224 people were killed.

Khartoum lies approximately 1,300 miles from Israel, which is within range of Israeli warplanes. Israel has made pre-emptive strikes in the past, such as in Syria and Lebanon. In Khartoum, hundreds of people gathered in the evening of October 24 at a government building where the Sudanese cabinet was meeting at an emergency session, shouting "Death to Israel" and "Remove Israel from the map."

Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.

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