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Hamas Commander Killed In Sudan Attack

A senior Hamas military commander was killed in today's airstrike in Port Sudan; Khartoum blames Israel; Israel declines comment.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 4/6/2011, 8:02 PM / Last Update: 4/6/2011, 11:00 PM

One of the 2 men killed in today's airstrike on a car in Port Sudan was a senior Hamas military commander, Al Arabiya reports.

The foreign media has largely placed responsibility for the attack at Israel's feet based on initial speculation the car was carrying weapons intended for Hamas in Gaza.

Sudan's foreign minister Ali Karti said Khartoum reserved the right to react to the aggression. "This is absolutely an Israeli attack," he told reporters.

Karti said Israel undertook the attack in order to scupper Sudan's chances of being removed from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism. Washington this year initiated the process to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terror after a peaceful January referendum in which the country's south voted to secede.

One of the two people killed in the strike was a Sudanese citizen who had no ties to Islamists or the government, Karti said, omitting any reference to the other occupant.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on Israel's alleged involvement in the attack.

Sudanese officials have offered different versions on how the strike was carried out. Police say a missile struck the car near the port city, but a state government official blamed the bombing on a foreign aircraft that flew in from the Red Sea. Sudanese military officials insist the attack was carried out by two Apache attack helicopters.

In 2009 Sudanese officials said an unknown aircraft had killed scores near Sheiitah, which many observers attributed to Israel based on reports the convoy had been carrying Iranian arms intended for Hamas in Gaza.

"We operate in every area where terrorist infrastructures can be struck," then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said without formally taking responsibility for the 2009 strike. "We are operating in locations near and far, and attack in a way that strengthens and increases deterrence. There is no point in elaborating. Everyone can use their imagination. Whoever needs to know, knows.”

Intelligence sources at the time intimated Israel had used Hermes 450 drones, which are controlled via satellite and can hover over a target for 24 hours. Why Israel would deploy Apache attack helicopters for such a mission instead of drones remains unclear considering the logistical challenges involved. Sudan is 971 nautical miles from Israel (a round trip of 1942 nmi) while the Apache has ferry range (maximum distance flown) of 1180 nmi.

Such a mission would require a refeuling point and puts the Apache crew in harms way. While Israel's Saar-5 class corvettes do have the capacity to stage one helicopter for missions, there is no readily appaerent reason Israel would commit two corvettes and two attack helicopters to an attack that could be carried out remotely with a single drone.

Egypt, which recently became involved Sudanese politics when it announced its intention to recognize South Sudan and is exerting pressure on its neighbors to the south in negotiations over Nile water rights, has a squadron of 34 Apache attack helicopters.