Israel military chief says "ready for action" on Iran's nuke facilities

   Apr 22, 5:59 pm

Jerusalem, April 22 (Xinhua-ANI): Israel's military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has said the army is prepared to launch an attack on Iran' s nuclear facilities once a government decision to that end is made.

"In principle, we are ready for action. The State of Israel thinks that a nuclear-armed Iran is a very bad thing that must be stopped... We're preparing our plans accordingly," Gantz said in an Independence Day interview with Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, excerpts of which were released on Sunday.

Describing 2012 as "critical" for the progression of Tehran's nuclear drive, Gantz said Israel is "the only country in the world that someone is calling to destroy and is building the means to do so. But that does not mean I'm sending [Air Force commander Ido] Nehushtan to Iran this very minute."

In the interview, which will be published in full on Wednesday, Gantz disclosed that the army has dramatically increased the operations it conducts deep behind enemy lines, as part of preparations for a potential war.

"There is barely a point in time in which something isn't taking place somewhere in the world. The level of risk has also gone up," Gantz said. "I'm not taking the credit. I'm simply accelerating all those special operations."

Asked, however, whether Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, a claim that has repeatedly been made by Israel's political echelon and security establishment, Gantz said: "The potential is there. I estimate that right now that is not the situation."

While "there are no signs" of an impending war in the Middle East, the risk of deterioration is "greater than in the past," Gantz said, citing the "strategic reality and instability" in the region.

Gantz said he was confident that in the event of a war, the army will be able to deal with rocket attacks from both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

"I cannot promise that missiles will not fall here. Many will fall. It will not be a simple war - for both the front and the rear. But I don't recommend anyone to test us. When [Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan] Nasrallah leaves the bunker he's very worried - for a good reason. He saw what happened to Lebanon the last time," Gantz said, referring to the 2006 Lebanon war, when Israeli warplanes hammered Lebanon's civilian infrastructure in response to the firing of thousands of rockets by Iran's proxy at northern Israel.

Turning to recent cuts to Israel's defense budget, Gantz estimated that the issue will be resolved by the country's defense and finance ministries in the coming weeks.

"It should be understood that in order to provide Israel good security we'll need billions of shekels. [The army] is aware of the budgetary constraints and is making the required adjustments. For now, our budget is running dry," Gantz said. (ANI)

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