Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has instructed the IDF to prepare for the possibility of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities by the end of March 2006, the Sunday Times reported.
According to the British newspaper said that the order was relayed to the army after intelligence officials warned the government that Iran has already activated uranium enrichment facilities hidden at civilian locations.
Notably, a strike on Iran at the end of March would coincide with the general elections scheduled for March 28. Israel has already attacked a foreign nuclear reactor shortly before elections time, when the Air Force struck in Iraq in 1981.
Secret uranium enrichment facilities
Sunday Times reporters Uzi Mahanaimi and Sarah Baxter say IDF sources confirmed the planned operation has already entered the highest state of readiness last week.
According to the report, defense officials told the British newspaper that should the army's plan of attack be approved, Israel would make use of both air and ground forces in order to strike at several nuclear targets in a bid to hamper Iran's nuke program by several years.
Defense officials reportedly said that a "massive" intelligence gathering effort has been undertaken ever since Iran was designated as "top priority for 2005." According to the report, Israel has engaged in cross-border operations and has gathered intelligence through an Israeli base established in northern Iraq.
'Strike must be 100 percent successful'
The said operations reportedly netted information that allowed Israel to identify Iranian uranium enrichment facilities unknown to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Sunday Times estimated that elite IDF forces and F-15 fighter jets, which can reach Iran and return to Israel without refueling, will take part in a future strike.
"If we opt for the military strike,” the newspaper quoted one source as saying, “it must be not less than 100 percent successful. It will resemble the destruction of the Egyptian air force in three hours in June 1967.”
Israel has reportedly also set March as the target date for an attack for fear Iran would be able to improve its intelligence gathering capabilities. In October, Iran launched its first satellite, a reality that has prompted an Israeli defense source to tell the Sunday Times Israel was concerned about the prospect of such satellite providing Teheran with early warning regarding an Israeli strike.
“If and when we launch an attack on several Iranian targets, the last thing we need is Iranian early warning received by satellite," the newspaper quoted the source as saying.