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Briefing

Sudan's Bashir threatens Israel over alleged airstrike

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir vowed today to retaliate against Israel for a recent alleged airstrike. The Monitor explains the background of the dispute.

By Staff writer / November 8, 2012

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (c.) and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad review an honor guard, in Tehran, Iran, in this 2006 photo.

Hasan Sarbakhshian/AP

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Sudan accuses Israel of bombing an arms warehouse or factory Oct. 24. Israel has no comment, but accuses Sudan of making or transporting arms for Iran. The recent arrival of two Iranian warships in Sudan seems to indicate strengthening ties. The Sudanese government, meanwhile, is convinced it is the victim of an Israeli attack. Today, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir threatened Israel with retaliation, saying "Israel will remain the number one enemy, and we will not call them anything except the Zionist enemy."  

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Did Israel really bomb a Sudanese weapons factory?

Probably. Iran and Sudan blame an air attack by the Jewish state for the explosion Oct. 24, which caused a fireball at the Yarmouk weapons complex outside Khartoum. Sudan says it claimed three lives. Israeli officials have refused to confirm or deny involvement, while practically in the same breath condemning Sudan as a conduit for Iranian arms heading toward the Gaza Strip.

When Amos Gilad, an aide to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was asked by an Israeli television station about possible Israeli Defense Force involvement, he refused to answer the question, while stressing that Sudan supports "terrorism."

Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman told reporters on a tour of the blast site that bomb debris had been discovered and examined, and his government was convinced they were Israeli armaments.

What is the nature of the Sudan-Iran relationship?

Sudan has unusually close ties with Iran for a Sunni-dominated state, stretching back over 20 years. Most Arab governments look askance at Persian and majority-­Shiite Iran as a dangerous regional rival.

Sudanese President Bashir has been periodically assisted by Iran since taking power following a 1989 coup. The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement in 2008. In 2009, the US Embassy in Khartoum reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Al-Samani al-Wasila had acknowledged that Iran had provided weapons to the Sudanese military in the past and had worked on joint weapons production, but denied that the country had been a transshipment point for Iranian arms to Palestinian militants in Gaza.

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