Hermes drone (archives)
Eitan UAV (archive)
Photo: Michael Kramer
Trucks following strike
The Israel Air Force used unmanned drones to attack convoys in Sudan trying to smuggle weapons to the Palestinian organizations in Gaza, the London-based Sunday Times newspaper reported, quoting Israeli security officials.
The defense sources also said that the trucks were carrying missiles with the range to strike the central city of Tel Aviv.
The strike was revealed three days ago on American television network CBS. According to the report, 17 trucks were bombed in January. State and army officials said in response that Israel would not comment on such reports.
According to the Sunday Times, Hermes 450 drones attacked two convoys, killing at least 50 smugglers and their Iranian escorts.
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 report said.
The defense sources said that the main 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," one of the sources said.
Rockets with range of over 40 milesAccording to the Sunday Times, the convoys were carrying Fajr-3 rockets, which have a range of more than 40 miles, and were split into sections so they could be smuggled through tunnels into Gaza from Egypt.
“They built the Fajr in parts so it would be easy to smuggle them into Gaza, then reassemble them with Hamas experts who learnt the job in Syria and Iran,” said a source.
The report also stated that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had masterminded the smuggling operation. “The Iranians arrived in Port Sudan and liaised with local smugglers,” said a source. The convoy was heading for the Egyptian border where, for a fat fee, local smugglers would take over.
On Saturday, American ABC network reported that Israel had struck in Sunday three times since January, and not twice as reported earlier. Israeli officials are remaining vague on the issue, excluding a remark made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but official sources in the United States have confirmed that the raid was carried out by Israeli warplanes.