The normalization agreement between Israel and Sudan has given the terrorist group Hamas gray hair (Israel left Gaza in 2005. Hamas has control of the Gaza Strip and is a huge threat to Israel’s security. Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, they have fired thousands of rockets across the border into Israel – read more here). Sudan is a Sunni Muslim country that for many years formed the framework for the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist group Hamas. Sudan’s geographical location along the Red Sea makes the country a vital arms smuggling route from Iran to the Gaza Strip. Therefore, the normalization agreement is a battle blow for both Iran and Hamas, writes Yoni Ben Menachem for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). Ben Menachem has for many years specialized in Arab affairs. He is a diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, a prominent Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center, and has served as Director-General and Editor-in-Chief of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
On October 23, the terrorist group Hamas issued a statement condemning the normalization agreement between Sudan and Israel. Hamas is angry and resentful of the deal, urging the Sudanese people to “fight all forms of normalization and not have links with the criminal enemy.” In the statement, Hamas warned that the agreement would not give Sudan stability or improve their situation, and “that Sudan will tear itself up by the root.” Read MIFF’s articles on Sudan here.
Sudan has supported terror, they have hosted al Qaeda and their leader Osama bin Laden and they even embraced Hamas. Read MIFF’s articles on Hamas here.
Sudan’s policy was pursued by General Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country from 1989-2019, dissolving the National Assembly and ruling the country with a martial law based on Muslim Sharia law. In 2009, al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for the murder, rape and looting of civilians in Darfur. Al-Bashir was ousted in a coup in 2019.
More than a decade ago, the Israeli intelligence service discovered that Sudan was operating as an important route for the smuggling of weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip. Read MIFF’s articles on Iran here.
According to foreign sources (confirmed by Israeli security sources), the Israeli air force attacked targets in Sudan as part of Israel’s fight against Iran, which smuggled weapons through Sudan into the Gaza Strip to the terrorist group Hamas.
In 2009, Time Magazine published reports from Israeli security officials that Israeli planes and unmanned aircraft had attacked a Sudanese convoy during the anti-Hamas operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The convoy consisted of 23 trucks loaded with weapons en route to the Gaza Strip. The goal of the Israeli air operation was to stop the supply of weapons to Hamas and send a message to Iran about Israel’s intelligence and operational capabilities.
The attack on the arms supply was a complex operation many thousands of kilometers away from Israel. The operation required refueling F-16 fighter jets in the air over the Red Sea. The convoy was loaded with about 120 tons of Iranian weapons, including anti-tank missiles and al-Fajr-3 rockets with a warhead of 45 kg that could reach 40 km.
Several Iranian and Sudanese smugglers were killed during the attack. A few days before the attack, the United States warned the Sudanese government not to allow arms smuggling from their territory. The Sudanese government ignored the warning, and then came the Israeli attack.
Despite the successful Israeli attack, arms smuggling continued from Sudan’s territory into the Gaza Strip.
Yuval Diskin, head of Israel’s general security services, told a government meeting in 2009 that in the months following Operation Cast Lead, 22 tonnes of standard explosives, 45 tonnes of raw materials for weapons, dozens of standard missiles, hundreds of mortar shells and dozens of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles into the Gaza Strip.
Egypt was aware of the arms smuggling and was also working to stop it under President Hosni Mubarak. In 2011, Egypt announced that its army had stopped five vehicles with weapons en route from Sudan to the Gaza Strip, and that all weapons had been seized in the border area between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The smuggling included large quantities of mortar shells and explosives that were to be smuggled through Hamas’ underground tunnels into the Gaza Strip. Read more about attack tunnels from Gaza into Israel here.
According to foreign sources, in 2012, Israeli air force planes attacked the Iranian al-Yarmouk plant in Sudan, which produced ammunition and weapons for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Two people were killed during the attack. According to various reports, Iran had already established the factory in 2008.
2014 became the turning point for Sudan after the country’s leader Omar al-Bashir, went on the offensive against Iran and claimed that Iran was working to spread the Shiite religion in Sunni Muslim Sudan. Sudan expelled Iran’s cultural attaché and closed Iranian cultural centers. The Sudanese decision allegedly came after pressure from Saudi Arabia, which is Tehran’s arch-enemy.
The crisis between Sudan and Iran also affected their relations with Hamas. Sudan collaborated with Iran to smuggle weapons through its territory to Egypt and from there to the Gaza Strip. The weapons were loaded on Iranian ships as regular calls at Port Sudan.
In 2014, the Israeli Army (IDF) naval commands seized the KLOS-C ship in the Red Sea. On the ship, they found 100 containers filled with weapons and cement from Iran on their way to Sudan. The IDF found missiles with a range of 200 km on its way to the Gaza Strip via Hamas tunnels.
Following the clash with Iran, Sudan closed Hamas offices and arrested the terrorist group’s operator who had established their terrorist infrastructure in the country.
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting in Entebbe, Uganda in 2020 with Sudan’s sovereign president, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, it emerged that Hamas would establish a branch of its intelligence services in Sudan.
In 2020, the Intel Times reported that the Sudanese authorities had arrested Abd al-Gafur, the head of the African branch of the Hamas military wing’s intelligence department. It is the branch of Hamas that builds the terrorist group’s military strength through Hamas branches in Malaysia, Turkey and Lebanon.
In light of Hamas ‘previous extensive activity in Sudan, the terrorist group now fears that the normalization agreement between Israel and Sudan will unite the two countries in the fight against terrorism, which will tighten Sudan’s security officials’ surveillance of Hamas agents in the country.
Hamas continues to operate in the country with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood and others.
After President Trump removed Sudan from the list of countries that support terrorism, the Khartoum regime is motivated to present itself to the world as a country determined to fight terrorism.
The normalization process between Arab countries and Israel has given Hamas a huge headache in terms of its military activities. The Gulf states have already restricted Hamas’ activities. In Saudi Arabia, 60 Hamas activists are being prosecuted for smuggling money through Turkey to Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip. Read MIFF’s articles on the Abrahamic agreements concluded between Israel, the Emiratesand Bahrain here.
Hamas expects that any Arab or Muslim country that enters into normalization agreements with Israel will have to commit to fighting terrorism with the United States and Israel. It will in part cause serious damage to Hamas’ military wing operations abroad and be a huge political blow to them because more countries will put Hamas on their terror list.
In the context of the peace agreement with Israel, it should also serve as a test for Sudan – to commit to fighting both Shia and Sunni Muslim terrorist groups, including Hamas, which are at the top of the list due to their past activities. Israel and the United States will not give up the issue, and therefore Hamas is under significant pressure, Ben Menachem concludes.