The Sunday Times reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had told military officials to prepare for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear targets to take place at the end of March 2006. According to the report by the London=based weekly, it received confirmation from military officials that both ground and air forces would be employed to stop Iran's nuclear development.
The order was relayed to the army after intelligence officials warned the government that Iran had already activated uranium enrichment facilities hidden at civilian locations, the report said.
The same sources also reportedly told the wekly that the alertness level among special forces units was raised after Sharon gave his orders to the army last week. According to the report, Israel has engaged in cross-border operations and has gathered intelligence through an Israeli base located in northern Iraq.
An attack on Iran at this time would coincide with general elections in Israel, which are set to take place on March 28.
Referring to the Sunday Times report, Israeli Defense Ministy diplomatic policy chief Amos Gilad refrained from a clear denial of the report. "I deny the concrete matters, the [description of] the plan, the timetables, the operation in northern Iraq, but it's impossible to say, in advance, that all options will be ruled out."
Gilad, interviewed by Israel Radio, was pressed to state when Israel might feel itself compelled to attack. "We will do this under very exacting monitoring," Gilad responded.