Iran risked Israeli military retaliation Monday with the dispatch of a naval task force to Sudan just days after a widely reported airstrike by the Jewish state against a missile base run by Tehran in Khartoum.
Sudanese state media said that a docking ceremony was staged in Port Sudan to receive the convoy led by an Iranian naval frigate and corvette warship.
Commanders of the Iranian flotilla reportedly met Sudanese navy chiefs as a gesture of "peace and friendship".
But Israel sees the increasingly close military links between Iran and Sudan as a credible threat. It fears Iran is building missiles to supply Hizbollah and the Syrian regime.
Israeli media has said that a long-range bombing run by eight F15 bombers hit a missile base staffed by Iranian engineers at the Yarmouk military plant.
Sudan has complained to the United Nations that Israel bombed the factory.
Iran claims to have harvested images of "sensitive" Israeli military sites and other potential missile targets form a drone shot down after it was launched from Lebanon by Hizbollah
Ismael Kowsari, a Iranian MP, told the semi-official Mehr news agency that images from the drone were broadcast back to Hizbollah operators before the Israeli military shot it out of the sky earlier this month.
"These drones transmit the pictures online," Mr Kowsari said. "The pictures of forbidden sites taken and transmitted by this drone are now in our possession."
Mehr has close links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is in overall charge of Iran's relationship with Hizbollah, the Shiite group whose militant terror arm is equipped with missiles, rockets and other arms by Tehran.
An Israeli investigation into the mystery craft, which was reported to have crossed deep into its territory, has not yet reached any conclusions. However military officials have briefed that they did not believe it was equipped with a camera. "I don't think there was a camera," a senior officers in the northern command said.
The Hizbollah leadership has boasted that it assembled the drone in southern Lebanon from components produced by its Iranian paymasters. It has warned that it is prepared to send more drones into its southern neighbour despite a warning from Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, that it is risking Lebanese security by doing so.
Ahmed Vahid, the Iranian defence minister, has taken credit for the Hizbollah drone in recent days. Mr Vahid said while the Ayub drone was not the "latest Iranian technology," its sophistication had "amazed" Israeli defence strategists.
Mr Kowsari, who is a former commander of the IRGC, also claimed that the images would allow Iran to respond to any act of aggression by Iran or its Western allies against the Islamic Republic. "That's why we say we will respond to Israel inside (its) territory, should it take any action against us," he said.
Iran claimed last month it had started manufacturing a long-range missile-carrying drone with a range of 1,250 miles.
The Shahed-129, or Witness-129, covers much of the Middle East including Israel and nearly doubles the range of previous drones produced by Iranian technicians, who have often relied on reverse engineering military hardware with the country under Western embargo.
Here's one of the initial stories on the bombing from a few days ago.
US monitoring group says images are consistent with attack from air as Khartoum accuses Israel over Yarmouk bombing
Satellite images of the aftermath of an explosion at a Sudanese weapons factory this past week suggest the site was hit in an air strike, a US monitoring group said Saturday.
The Sudanese government has accused Israel of bombing its Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, killing two people and leaving the factory in ruins.
The images released by the Satellite Sentinel Project to the Associated Press on Saturday showed six 52-foot wide craters near the epicenter of Wednesday's explosion at the compound.
Military experts consulted by the project found the craters to be "consistent with large impact craters created by air-delivered munitions", Satellite Sentinel Project spokesman Jonathan Hutson said.
The target may have been around 40 shipping containers seen at the site in earlier images. The group said the craters center on the area where the containers had been stacked.
Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied striking the site. Instead, they accused Sudan of playing a role in an Iranian-backed network of arms shipments to Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel believes Sudan is a key transit point in the circuitous route that weapons take to the Islamic militant groups in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
Sudan was a major hub for al-Qaida militants and remains a transit for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers. Israeli officials believe arms that originate in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas go through Sudan before crossing Egypt's lawless Sinai desert and into Gaza through underground tunnels.
The Satellite Sentinel Project is a partnership between the Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide advocacy group and DigitalGlobe, which operates three commercial satellites and provides geospatial analysis.
The project was founded last year with support from actor George Clooney, and in the past has used satellite images to monitor the destruction of villages by Sudanese troops in the country's multiple war zones.
Opened in 1996, Yarmouk is one of two known state-owned weapons manufacturing plants in the Sudanese capital. Sudan prided itself in having a way to produce its own ammunition and weapons despite United Nations and US sanctions.
The satellite images indicate that the Yarmouk facility includes an oil storage facility, a military depot and an ammunition plant.
The monitoring group said the images indicate that the blast "destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged at least 21 others", adding that there was no indication of fire damage at the fuel depot inside the military complex.
The group said it could not be certain the containers, seen in images taken 12 October, were still there when explosion took place. But the effects of the blast suggested a "highly volatile cargo" was at the epicenter of the explosion.
"If the explosions resulted from a rocket or missile attack against material stored in the shipping containers, then it was an effective surgical strike that totally destroyed any container" that was at the location, the project said.
Yarmouk is located in a densely populated residential area of the city approximately 11km southwest of the Khartoum international airport.
Wednesday's explosion sent exploding ammunition flying into homes in the neighborhood adjacent to the factory, causing panic among residents. Sudanese officials said some people suffered from smoke inhalation.
A man who lives near the factory said that from inside their house, he and his brother heard a load roar of what they believed was a plane just before the boom of the explosion sounded from the factory.
In the aftermath of Wednesday's explosion, Sudanese officials said the government has the right to respond to what the information minister said was a "flagrant attack" by Israel on Sudan's sovereignty and right to strengthen its military capabilities.
Israel has since admitted responsibility for the strike.
Not much longer now folks.