BENTIU, South Sudan – Sudanese armed forces launched an attack more than six miles inside South Sudan’s border, an official said Sunday, days after the south announced it was pulling its troops from a disputed border town to avoid an all-out war between the two countries.
Ground troops from Sudan launched three waves of attacks, said Deputy Director of Military Intelligence for South Sudan Maj. Gen. Mac Paul.
Paul said it was the first major engagement between the two armies since South Sudan announced it would pull out from the contested border town of Heglig.
Paul said the Sudanese forces “have come deeply in the south” and attacked with artillery and tanks. He said the attack was part of a “continuous provocation from the Sudanese army.” Paul said Sudan also used “militias” in the attack. Sudan’s military spokesman and other government officials were not immediately available to comment on the attack.
Sunday’s military attack came hours after a Muslim mob burned a Catholic church in Sudan frequented mostly by South Sudanese. The church in Khartoum’s Al-Jiraif district was built on a disputed plot of land, but the Saturday night incident appeared to be part of the fallout from ongoing hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan over Heglig.
Witnesses and several newspapers said a mob of several hundred shouting insults at southerners torched the church. Fire engines could not put out the fire, they said.
Syrian city calm with monitors’ presence
BEIRUT – The deployment of U.N. truce monitors brought a lull in shelling of the Syrian opposition stronghold of Homs for a second day Sunday while President Bashar Assad’s troops kept up heavy attacks on other areas where observers were not present.
International envoy Kofi Annan expressed hope that despite continued violations of the cease-fire he brokered, an expanded team of up to 300 observers – up from eight now on the ground – can help end 13 months of violence and lead to talks between Assad and the opposition.
Egypt ends gas deal with Israel
CAIRO – The head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. said Sunday it has terminated its contract to ship gas to Israel because of violations of contractual obligations, a decision Israel said overshadows the peace agreement between the two countries.
The 2005 natural gas deal has become a symbol of tensions between Israel and Egypt since the uprising. For many Egyptians, it typifies the close relations the regime of deposed President Hosni Mubarak forged with Israel and how his associates benefited greatly from such business deals.
Critics charge that Israel got the gas at below-market prices and that Mubarak cronies skimmed millions of dollars off the proceeds, costing Egypt millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Egyptian militants have blown up the gas pipeline to Israel 14 times since the uprising more than a year ago.
Israel insists it is paying a fair price for the gas.
Mohamed Shoeb, the head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co., said the decision to cancel the deal was not political.
“This has nothing to do with anything outside of the commercial relations,” Shoeb told the Associated Press.
He said Israel has not paid for its gas in four months. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that.