Israel used UAVs to attack Sudan smugglers

Sunday Times:

ISRAEL used unmanned drones to attack secret Iranian convoys in Sudan that were trying to smuggle rockets into Gaza. The missiles have the range to strike Tel Aviv and Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona, defence sources said.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attacked two convoys, killing at least 50 smugglers and their Iranian escorts. All the lorries carrying the long-range rockets were destroyed. Had the rockets been delivered to Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza, they would have dramatically raised the stakes in the conflict, enabling Palestinians to wreak terror on Tel Aviv.

According to western diplomats, Israel attacked the Iranian convoys at the end of January and in the first week of February in the remote Sudan desert, just outside Port Sudan. The convoys had been tracked down by agents from Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency.

The raids were carried out by Hermes 450 drones. One source claimed they were accompanied by giant Eitan UAVs, which have a 110ft wingspan, similar to that of a Boeing 737. The drones, controlled via satellite, can hover over a target for 24 hours. The Hermes 450 squadron is based at the Palmahim air base, south of Tel Aviv, but it remains unclear from which airfield they took off.

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Khartoum initially accused America of being behind the attacks. “We contacted the Americans and they categorically denied they were involved,” said Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ali al-Sadig.

His comments were the first official acknowledgment of the air strikes, first reported last week by the Egyptian newspaper El Shorouk. “We didn’t know about the first attack until after the second one. They were in an area close to the border with Egypt, a remote desert area, with no towns or people,” Sadig said.

Defence sources said the chief reason for choosing the drones was that a convoy forms a “slippery” target. “When you attack a fixed target, especially a big one, you are better off using jet aircraft. But with a moving target with no definite time for the move UAVs are best, as they can hover extremely high and remain unseen until the target is on the move.”

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The destroyed rockets had a range of about 40 miles. This is the first I have seen of Israelis using armed UAVs, but they obviously have the capacity to fire multiple missiles or there were more than one on the scene. The Israelis took advantage of the persistence that UAVs give a force in controlling a space.

Hezballah engaging in international law malpractice alleged the strikes were war crimes. Under the Hezballah interpretation Israel is not permitted self defense.

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