Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli military chief, said in 2009 that the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups were Israel's worst threats, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. ((Sebastian Scheiner/Reuters))

Israel considers the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups its most immediate threats, according to U.S. State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks and published in a Norwegian newspaper.

Israel also believes it would have only 10 to 12 minutes' warning if Iran launched rockets against it, the cable published Sunday in the daily newspaper Aftenposten said.

The cable described a Nov. 15, 2009, meeting between an American congressional delegation and Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

The paper quoted Ashkenazi as saying Israel was preparing itself against such attacks. He also purportedly told the delegation that Iran has 300 Shihab rockets which could reach Israel.

Some one million Israelis would be at risk from attacks from the country's enemies in the region, including Hezbollah and Hamas, he said.

It also cited Israeli military leaders as saying Lebanon's Hezbollah is sitting on a stockpile of 40,000 rockets, and that Hamas has the capacity to attack Tel Aviv. The next war in the Middle East would take place in Lebanon and on the Gaza Strip, Ashkenazi said.


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The cables come from a trove of 250,000 uncensored U.S. diplomatic documents that secret-spilling site WikiLeaks has been making public. Aftenposten said last month it had obtained all the documents.

Hamas took over Gaza soon after Israel pulled out in 2005. Hezbollah took over most of southern Lebanon when Israel left in 2000.