Hezbollah had planned to unleash a massive barrage of rocket attacks on civilian targets in the north, Military Intelligence chief Major General Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash) revealed Wednesday.

Ze'evi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that last week's assault by Hezbollah on the northern village of Ghajar and on Israel Defense Forces posts along the northern border had been a way of encouraging an Israel Defense Forces reaction, in response to which the Lebanon-based organization had planned to launch rockets, including long-range Katyushas, at Israel's northern border last week.

Ze'evi also gave a detailed description of the Ghajar attack, during which some 20 Hezbollah gunmen infiltrated the Israeli side of the village. At the same time, he said, some 30 militants attacked the Gladiola military outpost and Hezbollah members opened fire on some 25 IDF posts between Rosh Hanikra and Har Dov, firing some 330 mortar shells.

Ze'evi said Hezbollah had plans to damage the IDF and kidnap soldiers, noting, however, that the military had advance intelligence information on the planned attack and was therefore able to prepare for it.

He said Hezbollah leaders expected the IDF to launch an extensive reprisal and were prepared for major activity, including attacks on civilian targets.

Ze'evi also said he expected Hezbollah to continue attempting to kidnap soldiers or Israelis abroad and send drones into Israeli air-space.

The Hezbollah attack was carried out with Iranian knowledge and Syrian support, said Ze'evi, and was calculated to ease the international pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad in the wake of the investigative report on the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Commenting on other matters, Ze'evi said diplomacy would have failed if Iran was still working on producing nuclear weapons by March.

"If by the end of March 2006, the international community does not manage to use diplomatic means to block Iran's effort to produce a nuclear bomb, there will no longer be any reason to continue diplomatic activity in this field, and it will be possible to say that the international attempts to thwart [Iran's efforts] have failed," Ze'evi said.

Several MKs said they thought Ze'evi was saying military efforts would become necessary by April.

"The comments by the head of Military Intelligence convey a harsh, worrying and dark picture," said committee chairman MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud). "Iran is going to become a nuclear power in the region and the world is helpless (against this development)."