Israel-US missile test fuels jitters over Syria
By Dan Williams and Steve Gutterman, ReutersJERUSALEM/MOSCOW--Israel tested a U.S.-backed missile system in the Mediterranean on Tuesday but did not announce the launch in advance, prompting a disclosure by Russia that kept the world on edge as the United States weighed an attack on Syria.
September 4, 2013, 2:20 am TWN
The morning launch was first reported by Moscow media that quoted Russian defense officials as saying two ballistic “objects” had been fired eastward from the center of the sea — roughly in the direction of Syria.
The news ruffled financial markets until Israel's Defence Ministry said that it, along with a Pentagon team, had carried out a test-launch of a Sparrow missile. The Sparrow, which simulates the long-range missiles of Syria and Iran, is used for target practice by Israel's U.S.-backed ballistic shield Arrow.
“Israel routinely fires missiles or drones off its shores to test its own ballistic defense capabilities,” a U.S. official said in Washington.
Western naval forces have been gathering in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea since President Bashar al-Assad was accused of carrying out an Aug. 21 gas attack in his more than two-year-old conflict with rebels trying to topple him.
Damascus denies responsibility for the incident.
With U.S. action on Syria delayed as Obama confers with Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to play up the Jewish state's ability to deal with its foes alone. On Tuesday, the rightist premier spoke of anti-missile systems as a national “wall of iron.”
“These things give us the power to protect ourselves, and anyone who considers harming us would do best not to,” he said in a speech.
Arrow designer Uzi Rabin said tests of the anti-missile system are planned “long, long in advance” and generally go unnoticed. “What apparently made the difference today is the high state of tension over Syria and Russia's unusual vigilance,” he told Reuters.