WikiLeaks Quotes IDF Chief: Iran Could Hit Israel Within 12 Minutes

Gabi Ashkenazi told U.S. officials in 2009 that Israel was preparing for war against Hamas, Hezbollah and that rocket threat against Israel is 'more serious than ever.'

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi reportedly said in 2009 that Israel would have only between 10 and 12 minutes of warning in the event of an Iranian missile attack, AFP on Sunday quoted leaked U.S. cables as saying.

According to the cable authored by the American embassy in Tel Aviv, Lieutenant General Ashkenazi told the American delegation led by Missourian Congressman Ike Skelton that Iran possesses some 300 Shihab rockets that are capable of reaching Israel within minutes, leaving Israel with very little time to mount an effective defense.

Iran military rocket, AP, April 25, 2010.

Despite the danger that Iran poses to Israel, the cable states that Ashkenazi was more worried about the military capabilities of fighting forces closer to home, specifically Hamas, which controls Gaza, on Israel's western border, and Hezbollah, which maintains a strong military presence in southern Lebanon, on Israel's northern border.

According to the French news agency AFP, Ashkenazi's statements  were published in an article in the Norwegian-language newspaper Aftenposten, which has access to all of the U.S. embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.

Ashkenazi is supposed to have also told the American delegation on November 15, 2009 that Israel was preparing for a large-scale war with Hamas or Hezbollah.

"I am preparing the Israeli army for a large scale war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite," Ashkenazi said. "The rocket threat against Israel is more serious than ever. That is why Israel is putting such emphasis on rocket defense."

Ashkenazi said that he believes Hezbollah to possess 40,000 rockets, while U.S. officials put the number at closer to 50,000 rockets. "Hamas will have the possibility to bombard Tel Aviv, with Israel's highest population concentration," Ashkenazi reportedly said.

Although approximately 1400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, were killed during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's incursion into the Gaza Strip in December 2008, Ashkenazi vowed that the next round of fighting in Gaza would entail an even greater cost in human life, saying that Israel would not again accept "any restrictions on warfare in populated areas."