How Israel Casts Its Dark Shadow Over Horn of Africa

Muhammed Salahuddin, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2006-08-31 03:00

After the Zionist attack on Lebanon, the Sanaa-based Yemeni daily Al-Thawra published an interesting piece of information. It said that Israel had transferred three warships from its military base on Eritrea’s Dahlak Island on the Red Sea to support their military operations against Lebanon.

Official sources noted that Israel is creating the biggest naval base outside Israel on the Dahlak Island.

This followed an agreement between Eritrea and Israel signed in 1995. Eritrea used Israeli warships and huge logistical support from that naval base during its occupation of the Yemeni Hunaish Island in 1996. The sources disclosed that Israel has presence on two Eritrean islands: Dahlak and Fatma. The Israeli nuclear wastes are accumulated in these islands. Israel also has monitoring centers on the Red Sea to oversee the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan in addition to oil movements.

The Eritrean Foreign Ministry refuted the news item denying the existence of any Israeli base on their Islands. However, an intensive study carried out by the Center for Political and Strategic Studies and published by Al-Ahram in June 2006 titled “Isaias Afewerki’s Regime and Developing Relations with Israel” confirmed that the issue was much bigger than the Israeli military bases on Eritrean soil. It revealed a strategic relationship between the two governments that began with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki traveling to Israel for medical treatment in 1993.

Afewerki was transferred to Israel by an American airplane. The US representative in the Eritrean capital Asmara was the one who suggested the idea after the Eritrean leader fell ill. These happenings along with American efforts led to the opening of an Israeli Embassy in Asmara in March 15, 1993 prior to the official announcement on April 27, 1993.

There also has been an inclusive agreement between the two countries that was signed officially in March 1993 by Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Eritrean President Afewerki.

According to the Center for Political and Strategic Studies’ report, Israel has some clear motives for establishing and improving ties with Eritrea. They wanted Eritrea to become the most important strategic ally to the Zionist entity in every corner of the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea. Their motives can be summed in two points:

1. The geostrategic importance of the 360 Eritrean islands, especially Dahlak and Fatma islands.

They are located in the southern gateway of the Red Sea occupying some 1080 kilometers. The two islands have important features that affect the international and regional naval balance. The two islands can also be used for stationing marine and land forces and for monitoring all naval activities in the region. Israel thought that by controlling these islands it can avoid any Arab attempts to impose a naval blockade on Israel under any circumstances. Israel’s presence on the islands will also stop the Red Sea from turning into Arab waters.

2. Another advantage is the importance of Eritrea’s location in serving the Israeli strategies in motoring and spying on Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan. The three countries are not Israel’s allies. In 1998, the British “Foreign Report” bulletin, specializing in intelligence affairs, reported that Israel maintains close intelligence relations with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and that the Israeli spy agency Mossad has established in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, a center for gathering intelligence information.

According to the British weekly, Eritrea permits Israel to carry out vast activities on Dahlak Island on the Red Sea. Because of the presence of the Israelis on this island, the Mossad can carry out monitoring operations and collect important information about Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Report bulletin also stated that the Mossad has a very active intelligence gathering station not far from Eritrea’s borders with Sudan.

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