Friday, March 27, 2009

Sudan News Bulletin: Government Suspects Israel in Bombings of Convoys

Friday, March 27, 2009
19:19 Mecca time, 16:19 GMT

Sudan suspects Israel of attacks

Footage handed to Al Jazeera showed a number of twisted and burned vehicles in the desert

Israel probably carried out two air raids in a remote desert area of Sudan that killed up to 40 people, Sudanese officials have said.

A Sudanese government minister had originally blamed the United States for the attacks on two separate vehicle convoys in January and February.

"The first thought is that it was the Americans that did it. We contacted the Americans and they categorically denied they were involved," Ali al-Sadig, the Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman, said on Friday.

"We are still trying to verify it. Most probably it involved Israel.

"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 area, desert, with no towns, no people."

US denial

His remarks were the first official government comments of the strikes, but the Sudanese transport minister had told Al Jazeera on Thursday that US aircraft had carried them out.

Mabrouk Mubarak Salim said that the attacks had been launched from the US fleet in the Red Sea.

The US military command in Africa (Africom) denied carrying out any attacks inside Sudan.

Israel has yet to comment on the claims.

Video footage supplied to Al Jazeera by a Sudanese intelligence source showed a number of burned-out and badly damaged vehicles lying in an expanse of desert.

Some media reports suggested that the raids had targeted arms smugglers destined for the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.

But Sudan said there was no proof that the convoys were carrying weapons.

"They were smuggling something, but the pick-ups were small. You don't carry weapons in small pick-ups," al-Sadig said.

'False claims'

Hamas also denied that it was involved in the incident, saying that the fact that Sudan does not share a border with Gaza "shows these are false claims".

"First of all we are not sure any convoy has been hit, but it is ironic to link these convoys to Hamas," Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas leader, told the AFP news agency.

"Should it turn out that there were raids and a high number of people killed, this would mean Israel is seeking to use the opportunity to blame Hamas and hit Sudan."

If the smugglers had been trying to get weapons to Gaza, they would have had to pass multiple Egyptian checkpoints both in the Nile valley and the Sinai penisula.

Ronen Bergman, an Israeli investigative journalist, told Al Jazeera that weapons are smuggled to Gaza either from Syria by sea to the Sinai peninsula, or from Iran via Sudan.

"The last operation executed by the Israeli military forces in the Gaza Strip has caused Hamas to lose quite a lot of its arsenal and, therefore, to request for more and more supplies from Iran," Bergman said.

"Some of those supplies were intercepted in that alleged raid by the Israeli air force."

Israel staged a 22-day war in Gaza which ended when it declared a unilateral halt to military operations on January 18.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Olmert hints that his jets hit Sudan convoy

John Lyons, Middle East correspondent
March 28, 2009
The Australian

ISRAELI Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has strongly suggested that Israel engaged in an audacious bombing operation in Sudan in January, saying yesterday "there is no place that Israel can't reach".

Although he maintained Israel's longstanding policy of neither confirming nor denying one-off operations into foreign countries, Mr Olmert gave a strong hint that during the Gaza war Israel's jets had flown to northern Africa and bombed a convoy of trucks it believed were carrying weapons destined to go to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with which Israel was at war.

When the story was initially broken by the CBS television network this week, Israel refused to comment.

CBS reported that 39 people were killed when Israeli Air Force planes bombed the convoy in eastern Sudan, destroying 17 trucks. It is understood the trucks were due to travel north, through Egypt, where their cargo was reported to be headed into Gaza.

Sudan, however, has claimed the death toll was much higher-- Sudan's Minister for Highways, Mabrouk Saleem, told al-Jazeera the trucks were carrying civilians, rather than weapons, and that about 800 people were killed. He said among the dead were people from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Israel's response to this report followed a pattern of responses to other reported Israeli strikes into other countries.

If indeed it was an IAF strike, it illustrates two things: the reach of Israel's intelligence, most likely gained from satellite images, and its willingness to carry out strikes in other countries.

In September 2007, reports suggested Israel had flown into Syria and attacked a military facility that it believed was a nuclear facility.

For several days, Israel would not respond to questions about the reported raid, but finally Israeli Army Radio gave it official confirmation when it quoted the country's military censor as saying Israeli planes had attacked a military target "deep inside Syria".

Israel's most famous strike deep into another country was in 1981, when its jets flew into Iraq and struck a French-built nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Baghdad. Ironically, at the time the Islamic rulers in Iran were delighted that Israel had destroyed the nuclear facility of their bitter enemy, the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

Hours after the Israeli media yesterday reported the airstrike over Sudan as fact, Mr Olmert, rather than denying it, said: "We operate anywhere we can to target infrastructure ... Those who need to know are aware that there is no place Israel can't reach."

The reason Israel is keen to perpetuate suggestions that it was responsible for such a strike is because of its primary enemy -- Iran.

Because there has been significant debate about whether Israeli jets could reach Iran for any strike against its nuclear facilities, Israel wants to convey a message to Iran's leadership that the distance between Israel and Iran presents no logistical problem for the IAF.

Last year, Israel conducted a series of exercises over the Mediterranean to demonstrate within the region that its planes could fly long distances without needing to land to refuel.

Mr Olmert yesterday said: "We operate in many places near and far, and carry out strikes in a manner that strengthens our deterrence."

He went on to refer to Iran, saying on the issue of Iran's development of nuclear capability: "Israel is not the main player, but it's contributing to the international effort to prevent Iran's nuclear armament. The main player who should lead on Iran is the United States."

Mr Olmert went on to say, cryptically: "The choice is not between total war and total failure -- there is a lot to be done between those two choices and the countries that can do these things know how to do them. Israel knows how to position itself on this issue in a way that reflects its uniqueness and capabilities."

The speech was one of the last Mr Olmert will give as prime minister -- on Tuesday the new government of Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be sworn in.

Mr Olmert used the speech to give his successor a clear message about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- that Mr Netanyahu should move decisively to find a political solution.

"Time is not working in Israel's favour," Mr Olmert said. "If Israel doesn't initiate a political solution in an active and dynamic fashion, it will be harming its own interests. That's true in relation to the Palestinians and in relation to Syria.

"No delusion or slogan will change the fact that a solution will require concessions that many of us are unwilling to even think about."

Mr Netanyahu this week significantly softened his rhetoric on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, saying: "I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security and for rapid economic development of the Palestinian economy.

"This means that I will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority for peace."

Friday, March 27, 2009
19:29 Mecca time, 16:29 GMT

Israeli military in anthrax row

Several soldiers who received an experimental vaccine have suffered medical problems

Israeli defence officials have been accused of "grave ethical failures'" in testing an experimental anthrax vaccine on hundreds of Israeli soldiers.

Several of 716 soldiers who took part in the experiment in the late 1990s have reportedly developed tumours and suffered infections while others have complained of headaches, dizziness, skin, respiratory and
digestive problems that they say are related to the vaccine.

The panel of medical and legal experts said in a report obtained by the Associated Press news agency that the soldiers were not properly informed of the possible risks.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterial disease and its spores can be used in germ warfare to infect victims.

The US has long required that its troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea be vaccinated against anthrax.

Tumours and infections

The Israeli military, or IDF, said on Friday the experiment was of "strategic importance to Israel's security''.

According to the IDF, only 11 soldiers sought help for side-effects and they all received appropriate treatment.

Volunteers were given "a detailed explanation about the vaccine, associated research and possible side effects'', the defence ministry said.

The vaccine programme had been ordered from 1998 to 2006 amid fears of an anthrax attack by Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, and because foreign-made vaccines were not available.

In its conclusions, the panel said it "was not convinced'' that decision-makers had properly evaluated the vaccine.

It also called into question the motives of some of the scientists involved in developing the vaccine because of their previous links to anthrax research.

"We found no clear justification for the experiment,'' the panel wrote, calling the test "seriously flawed".

"The purpose of the experiment was to examine the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for use among Israel's general population, but the experiment was conducted on young, healthy soldiers and it is not clear how its results could reflect on the population as a whole,'' it said.

"The possible risks and side-effects of the experiment weren't explored in depth'' and were concealed from the soldiers who took part, it concluded.

Soldiers were not monitored thoroughly during and after the experiment for any possible side effects, it said.


Dorit Tahan, 29, who volunteered for the experiment, said the report verifies what soldiers have long claimed.

"There was no medical supervision after the soldiers finished the shots. No one took care of the soldiers after the experiment,'' Tahan, who attributes her skin problems to the vaccine, said.

The Israeli military appointed the panel in 2007 after media reported on the soldiers' complaints.

It interviewed 83 soldiers and received testimony from 60 others who spoke to Physicians for Human Rights, the statement said.

It is not clear how many soldiers are suffering from side-effects.

Source: Agencies

Sudan's president thanks Gaddafi

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has visited Libya on his third trip abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest.

Mr Bashir, who on Wednesday visited Egypt and on Monday Eritrea, thanked Libya's Col Gaddafi for his support.

Libya is not a signatory to the ICC's charter, which obliges member states to arrest those indicted if they enter their territory.

Sudan's leader is accused of war crimes in his country's Darfur region.

It is unclear if he still plans to attend a 29-30 March Arab summit in Doha, Qatar.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Bashir's office said he would be visiting Ethiopia, but he flew instead to Libya.

He met Col Muammar Gaddafi in his hometown of Sirte, 500km (300 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, Libyan state news agency Jana reported.

"President Bashir thanked the leader of the revolution... for his solid pro-Sudan positions in regional and international forums, a position that reflects the depth of the relationship between the two brother countries," according to Jana.

Col Gaddafi, who is also the current chairman of the African Union, last month urged the ICC to halt its case against Mr Bashir.

On Wednesday, the office of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo warned that Mr Bashir could not avoid being held to account over the 4 March warrant.

Many African states, along with Sudan's key ally China, have called for the ICC proceedings to be suspended, arguing it will hamper efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

Correspondents say the Sudanese leader has also been emboldened by the 22-member Arab League's decision not to enforce the warrant even though three of its member countries are ICC signatories.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/03/26 18:02:30 GMT

President Trips Abroad weakened ICC Decision/ Observers

Khartoum (smc)

Political analysts say president Al Bashir Trips outside the country weakened International criminal court ICC decision issued for indicting him.

However political arguments over whether Bashir have to participate in Arab summit scheduled by the end of the current month in Doha or not still a controversial issue. Parliament deputy speaker and prominent SPLM member Atim

Garang told (smc) that president visits to neighboring countries show that the respective states are in solidarity with Sudan against ICC.

However he calls president not to go to Doha as precaution step. But renowned politician Ismail Haj Musa thinks otherwise.

He said president should travel to Doha to continue challenging ICC and achieve victory. For his part, head of Upper Nile state committee at National Congress Party Poul Deng shares, Garang an identical view that president should not travel on background that Americans have bases in the region and they may act against the president without taking permission from the country that hasted the American bases.

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