Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Israel must be ready for any Iranian attack: minister

Israel should prepare for the possibility of a missile attack from Iran, a cabinet minister said on Tuesday.

"We are liable to face an Iranian missile attack. The Iranians have said very clearly that if they come under attack, their primary target would be Israel," Rafi Eitan, a member of the decision-making inner cabinet, told Israel Radio.

Iran could fire missiles at the Jewish state "therefore we must prepare for what could come, and prepare the entire country for a missile strike attack, to prepare all the civilian systems so they are ready for this," Eitan said. READ MORE

The radio said Eitan, a former spymaster, meant that Israel should prepare its bomb shelters to protect against a possible Iranian attack.

It quoted Eitan as alluding to the current international standoff with Iran over its uranium enrichment, saying if the situation deteriorates, Israel would be the first to come under attack.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." He has said Israel "should not assume" its ceasefire with Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas last week means an end to the crisis.

Hizbollah fired 4,000 rockets on northern Israel during the war.

Iranian cleric Amad Khatami has said that Iran would hit Tel Aviv with medium-ranged missiles it came under attack. Arms experts say Iran's Shahab-3 missiles are capable of striking Israel.

Eitan's remarks also came as tensions rose between Iran and six world powers led by the United States, who have sought to persuade Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program, with an August 31 deadline for Tehran to face possible sanctions from the United Nations.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East.