JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned his officials to stop "blabbing" about the possibility of an attack targeting Iran's nuclear programme, the newspaper Maariv reported on Monday.
Netanyahu is said to have directed the instruction at a number of military officials and government ministers who he believes have been speaking too freely about a potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
The newspaper, citing unnamed senior officials, said Netanyahu delivered the warning during a meeting with ministers from his Likud party on Sunday.
"Stop blabbing, already," he reportedly told the officials. "This chit-chat causes huge damage, puts Israel on the front line, and damages sanctions" imposed by the United States and Europe on Iran, the premier reportedly said.
Maariv's sources said there was concern that Israel "might be perceived as dragging the US into a war with Iran against its will and endangering the US's national interests."
The warning came after several statements by senior Israeli military and political officials last week, including Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, who suggested that all Iran's nuclear sites were vulnerable to attack.
"In my military experience, any site protected by humans can be penetrated by humans," he said during the annual Herzliya security conference. "At the end of the day all their sites can be hit."
Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by comments made by Israeli officials, about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran.
Israel and much of the international community believes that Iran's nuclear programme masks a covert weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.
Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only, albeit undeclared, nuclear power, has supported tough sanctions against Iran, but also insisted it retains the option of a military strike to halt its nuclear activities.
On Sunday, US President Barack Obama appeared to try to dampen speculation about such an attack, which reports suggest Washington would oppose.
"I don't think Israel has made a decision" to hit Iranian facilities, he told American network NBC.
Obama said Iran was "feeling the pinch" of ever tougher sanctions imposed by the international community, and dismissed concerns that Tehran could retaliate by striking US soil, saying such a strike was unlikely.
"I've been very clear -- we're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating a nuclear arms race in a volatile region," he said.
He added: "Again, our goal is to resolve this diplomatically. That would be preferable. We're not going to take options off the table, though."