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Iran warns Israel to not attack nuclear facilities

February 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Israeli embassies and Jewish schools and synagogues in the United States and around the globe have been told to increase security, ABC News learned Friday.

This comes after a warning was issued directly Friday by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who is Iran's true decision maker.

In a rare appearance before the people of Tehran, Khamenei issued a blunt statement. Calling Israel a "cancer" that must be cut out, he warned Israel not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. He also threatened the U.S., saying an attack "would be ten times worse for the United States than for Iran."

The new threat comes as reports continue to surface that Israel will strike Iran's nuclear facilities as early as April.

"The deadline is being driven by the Israeli belief that the Iranians are progressing so rapidly on their capability to enrich the uranium and build a nuclear weapon," United States Marine Corps Col. Stephen Ganyard. "And they are burying their facilities so deep underground that they will no longer have the ability to influence the course of the Iranian program."

Israel is also ratcheting up the rhetoric, with defense minister Ehud Barak saying no options should be taken off the table.

"Those who say in English 'later' may find that later is too late," he said.

If there is a strike, U.S. officials say Israel would be the first to face the consequences, with missiles fired at population centers. But according to an internal security document obtained by ABC News, Israeli facilities in America, including Jewish schools, synagogues, and community centers, could be targeted.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the key to stopping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb is keeping global support for tough economic sanctions.

But Dr. Akbar Mahdi, an Iranian-born sociologist and Middle East expert, said that also hurts the Iranian people.

"Iran is hurting right now because of sanctions, they're draconian, even worse then what we've put on Iraq," said Mahdi.

President Obama recently signed new sanctions into law that would block any institution dealing with Iran's central bank from the U.S. financial system. The European Union announced similar measures last week. The sanctions, if fully implemented, would make it impossible for countries to buy Iranian oil.

ABC News contributed to this report.