Israel's army chief told an American Congress delegation in November 2009 he was preparing for a large war in the Middle East, probably against Hamas or Hizbullah, leaked US diplomatic cables have showed. "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," Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi was quoted as saying in a cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
The document, dated November 15, 2009, was quoted Sunday in Norwegian by Oslo-based daily Aftenposten, which said it had obtained from WikiLeaks. "The rocket threat against Israel is more serious than ever. That is why Israel is putting such emphasis on rocket defense," Ashkenazi told the US delegation led by Democrat Ike Skelton. The army chief lamented that Iran has some 300 Shihab rockets that can reach Israel and stressed that Tel Aviv would have only between 10 and 12 minutes warning in case of an attack.
However, it was Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon that posed the most acute threat, he cautioned. According to him, Hizbullah is thought to have more than 40,000 rockets.