Israel Says Ready to Cope with Hizbullah Rockets in Case of Regional Warإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Israel's army chief has said that in case of a regional war, his forces will be able to cope with the rocket threat from Lebanon and from the Gaza Strip.
"I can’t promise no missiles will be landing here. They will be falling; many of them. It won’t be a simple war, neither on the frontlines nor on the home front,” army chief-of-staff Benny Gantz said in an extract from an interview with the top-selling Yediot Aharanot daily.
“However, I don’t advice anyone to test us on this front," Gantz added, in the interview which will be published in full on Wednesday, on the eve of Israel's 64th anniversary as a state.
"When (Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan) Nasrallah comes out of his bunker, he’s concerned – and rightfully so. He saw what happened to Lebanon last time, and it won’t be close to what will happen to Lebanon next time," Gantz said. "I think they understand it well."
Asked whether Israel faces an existential threat at this time, the Israeli official said: "The potential exists. At this time, in my estimate, this is not the case."
On the likelihood of the eruption of a war this year, Gantz said: "Our intelligence assessment asserts that given the strategic reality and instability in the region, the chance of deteriorating to a war is higher than in the past.”
“There are no indications of war, but the chances of the situation deteriorating into one are higher than in the past," he added.
He noted that Israeli forces were carrying out more special operations beyond the country's borders and will be ready to attack Iran's nuclear sites if ordered.
Gantz said that 2012 would be a critical year in efforts to halt what Israel and much of the international community believe is an Iranian nuclear arms program.
"We think that a nuclear Iran is a very bad thing, which the world needs to stop and which Israel needs to stop -- and we are planning accordingly," Gantz said.
"In principle, we are ready to act. That does not mean that I will now order (air force chief) Ido (Nehushtan) to strike Iran," he added.
The United States says it does not believe Iran has so far taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon, or that the time is right for military action, preferring to give international sanctions time to work.
But Israel, which sees a nuclear Iran as a threat to its very existence, claims Tehran may be on the cusp of "breakout" capability -- when it could quickly build a nuclear weapon -- and it does not rule out staging a pre-emptive strike of its own.
Gantz said he had increased the number of Israeli special operations in other countries but did not give details.
"I do not think you will find a point in time where there is not something happening, somewhere in the world," he said. "The threat level is also higher."
"I'm not taking the credit," he added. "I'm just accelerating all those special operations."