Israeli "elements" have been arming and training the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), according to a report Thursday in the South Sudanese al-Intiba newspaper, which said that Israeli aircraft were landing in South Sudan on a daily basis and unloading military hardware.
According to the report, not only are Israeli missiles and other weapons being unloaded in South Sudan, but mercenaries from other African countries were also said to be arriving on these flights to help the SPLA in the event that hostilities with neighboring Sudan worsen.
On Wednesday, South Sudan said it shot down a Sudanese fighter jet after military planes bombed areas around its oil fields.
South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said the downed plane was a Sudanese MiG-29 jet fighter flying in South Sudan's air space. Sudan denied any of its jets were downed.
The Sudanese "don't know that we have the capacity. They underestimate the SPLA," Aguer said.
Israel has been actively pursuing alliances with Christian-led east African countries, which it has identified as natural allies in battling al-Qaida and Islamic threats. Israel was one of the first countries to recognize South Sudan after it gained independence from Muslim, Arab-led Sudan last July.
In late Dec. 2011, Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, chose Israel for one of his first official visits as leader of the world's newest country. Kiir's visit came one month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted the leaders of Uganda and Kenya.
During his visit, Kiir held meetings with Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
During their meeting in December, Netanyahu and Kiir agreed that an Israeli delegation would visit South Sudan in order to identify ways that Israel could better support the developing African nation.
South Sudan split from Sudan last year after decades of civil war, but the two sides never agreed on where exactly their shared border lies or how to share oil revenues. The south now has most of the oil but must pump it through a pipeline that runs through Sudan.
South Sudan alleges that Sudan stole much of its oil, and the south shut down production earlier this year, depriving both countries of needed government revenue.
Hostilities between the two sides have grown worse in recent months, and Sudan canceled a planned meeting between the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan scheduled for Tuesday.