Israeli commandos raided a ship containing weapons destined for Gaza thanks to specific intelligence. Photo / AP
A line of vehicles proceeds along the Sudanese coast at night. Suddenly, an explosion. A rocket fired from an unmanned drone has destroyed one of the cars, killing the two men inside.
The next day one of the dead men is identified as a senior Hamas operative, Abdel Latif al-Ashkar, in charge of an arms smuggling operation from Iran to Gaza. Sudanese officials accuse Israel’s Mossad of the killings.
If this version of the incident last week is true – and an unnamed Israeli official told Time Magazine that it is – then Mossad operatives have been working overtime executing a scenario that would be thrown out by any film producer with taste as too fanciful.
In addition to the mysterious attack in Sudan 1000km south of Israel – where did that drone come from and how was its operator able to home in on that specific car at night? – there was an equally mysterious event a month before on a crowded train in the Ukraine in broad daylight.
A Palestinian engineer, Dirar Abu-Sisi, travelling with his Ukranian-born wife, was kidnapped by men flashing identity cards. He subsequently surfaced in an Israeli prison without having passed through any extradition proceedings or with any Ukrainian official professing to know what happened to him.
A few weeks later, Israeli naval commandos armed with specific intelligence boarded a Liberian flag vessel, Victoria, in the Mediterranean 300km off Israel’s coast and diverted it to an Israeli port where 50 tonnes of weapons destined for Hamas were confiscated. All this within six weeks.
If this was not enough, well-informed Arab sources say that the Hamas official killed in Sudan, al-Askar, was the successor to Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas operative assassinated in Dubai last year by a large Mossad hit team using false passports.
In an additional twist, a Kuwait newspaper, Al-Jerida, reported this week that al-Askar’s whereabouts had been divulged to Israel by the Palestinian engineer kidnapped in the Ukraine, Abu-Sisi.
Two of the Mossad’s principal efforts in recent years have been to sabotage the Iranian nuclear programme and to halt the flow of arms from Iran to Gaza, particularly rockets capable of hitting Israeli cities.
Sudan has been a major transshipment point, with weapons unloaded in its ports trucked into Egypt on the way to Gaza. In 2009, warplanes swooped down on a truck convoy in Sudan carrying arms for Hamas, killing 119 persons and planes hit a ship also reportedly carrying arms in a port. Israel was accused but made no comment.
When Abu-Sisi was brought to Israel, officials said he was wanted for questioning because he headed Hamas’ efforts to upgrade its rocket arsenal.
According to Al-Jerida, Israel was in fact after more topical information – the whereabouts of al-Askar who was to co-ordinate a new shipment of Gaza-bound rockets via Sudan. Al-Askar arrived in Port Sudan on the Red Sea last Wednesday in a small plane from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
He was met at the airport by local associates and drove towards the port city. He never reached it.
By Abraham Rabinovich