- Associated Press - Monday, January 3, 2011

OSLO (AP) — Israel believes that it would have only 10 to 12 minutes’ warning if Iran launched rockets but that threats from Hamas and Hezbollah are the most pressing, according to leaked U.S. State Department cables published in a Norwegian newspaper.

The Aftenposten daily on Sunday cited a cable describing a Nov. 15, 2009, meeting between an American congressional delegation and Israel‘s military chief in which he reportedly said Israel was preparing to defend itself against such attacks.

The paper quoted Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as telling the delegation that Iran has 300 Shihab rockets that could reach Israel. Some 1 million Israelis would be at risk from attacks from the country’s enemies in the region, including Hezbollah and Hamas, he said.

It also cited Israeli military leaders as saying the two militant groups are the most immediate threat to the country, with Lebanon’s Hezbollah sitting on a stockpile of 40,000 rockets and Hamas having the capacity to attack Tel Aviv. The next war in the Middle East would take place in Lebanon and on the Gaza Strip, Gen. Ashkenazi said.


The cables come from a trove of 250,000 uncensored U.S. diplomatic documents that secret-spilling site WikiLeaks has been making public. Aftenposten said last month it had obtained all the documents.

Hamas took over Gaza soon after Israel pulled out in 2005, and Hezbollah took over most of southern Lebanon when Israel left in 2000.

In separate U.S. cables dating back to talks in September 2009 between the Israeli military and an American congressional delegation, an officer from the Israeli security agency Shin Bet gave a detailed description of the situation in Gaza to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat.

According to Aftenposten, the officer said that six months after the Israeli attack against Gaza in 2008-09, Hamas already had regained the same amount of weapons it had before the operation.

He reportedly said that Hamas was working actively to develop its own weapons production and had been trying to obtain Iranian rockets that can reach Tel Aviv.