From the news
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
Accounts emerged today of an attack on a convoy which killed dozens of suspected arms smugglers in Sudan by foreign aircraft, which one report said were Israeli.
The US channel CBS News reported that Israeli aircraft carried out the strike in January after Israeli intelligence discovered the trucks were intending to deliver arms through Sudan and across Egypt to be smuggled into Gaza. CBS said this account was the "semi-official American version" and said 39 people travelling in 17 trucks were reportedly killed.
The strike happened around the time of Israel's three-week war in Gaza. Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, is known to smuggle weapons in through tunnels from Egypt.
The Israeli military declined to comment, saying: "Israel does not respond to publications of this type." In a speech today the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, did not confirm any Israeli involvement but said his country's forces were operating "near and far".
"We are operating in every area in which terrorist infrastructures can be struck," he said at a conference in Herzliya. "We are operating in locations near and far and attack in a way that strengthens and increases deterrence. It is true in the north and in the south ... there is no point in elaborating. Everyone can use their imagination. Whoever needs to know, knows."
Sudan's foreign minister said that he had no knowledge of any attack, but another Sudanese official, Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem, the state highways minister, was quoted by the France-based Sudan Tribune website as saying a "major power bombed small trucks carrying arms, burning all of them".
Two anonymous Sudanese politicians told Reuters in Khartoum that nearly everyone in the convoy, which was in a remote area of eastern Sudan, was killed. One said his colleagues had spoken to a survivor of the raid.
"There was an Ethiopian fellow, a mechanic," he said. "He was the only one who survived. He said they came in two planes. They passed over them then came back and they shot the cars. He couldn't tell the nationality of the aircraft ... the aircraft destroyed the vehicles. There were four or five vehicles," he said.
He said the route, north-west of Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, was regularly used by smugglers taking weapons into Egypt. "Everyone knows they are smuggling weapons to the southern part of Egypt," he said.