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Israel claims joint US missile launch in Mediterranean for 'target practice'

Published time: September 03, 2013 09:03
Edited time: September 04, 2013 23:59

RIA Novosti / Mikhail Fomichev

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Israel says it carried out a “joint” US missile launch in the Mediterranean, having earlier claimed ignorance. Russian radars detected two ballistic rockets fired in the region on Tuesday, sparking widespread speculation over who was behind the launch.

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A spokesperson for the Israeli army confirmed that a launch of a missile had been carried out 9:15am local time (06:15 GMT), adding that US forces in the Mediterranean had been given prior warning of the drill.

A fighter jet launched an Ankor-type (“Sparrow”) missile as part of a drill to test the Israeli missile defense system. However, earlier, when the Russian government announced it had detected the firing of "two ballistic objects" in the area, Israel insisted it had no “information on this issue yet.”

Despite Israeli claimed of a “joint US” missile launch, the American Navy maintained that no rockets were launched by US forces in the region.

"No missiles were fired from US ships in the Mediterranean," said the spokesman, who made no further comment on the matter.

Other members of the international community were quick to follow suit with France, UK and Italy denying any knowledge of the test launch. NATO said it was investigating the incident. 

The Pentagon later admitted that the Israeli missile test in the Mediterranean was carried out “with technical support of the US Defense Department.”

The test was also “pre-planned,” according to the US Defense Department spokesman George Little quoted by Itar-Tass.

The Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed a US defense agency took part in a “successful flight test of the new version of the Sparrow target missile” in an e-mail statement to RT Arabic.

“Israel’s Missile Defense Organization and the US Missile Defense Agency officials conducted the flight test. The main contractor for the integration and development of the Sparrow is Rafael and the main contractor of the Arrow Weapon System is MLM of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in conjunction with Boeing,” the statement explained.

The Russian Defense Ministry initially reported that “two ballistic objects” were picked up on radars in the central Mediterranean and were moving towards the East. Later, citing a security source inside the Syrian government, RIA Novosti reported that the rockets had fallen into the sea.

Meanwhile, Syria’s missile detection system did not pick up any rockets landing on Syrian territory, a security source told Lebanese channel al-Manar TV.

Tipping the balance?

Tensions are running high in the Mediterranean as world powers discuss possible military intervention in Syria after the reported use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb on August 21.

The Syrian government has rejected claims of its complicity in the opposition-controlled Damascus suburb of Ghouta and has called on the UN to protect it from western aggression. In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Assad regime urged the UN to “maintain its role as a safety valve to prevent the absurd use of force out of the frame of international legitimacy.”

Russia has slammed US plans to launch a military strike on Syria, as they would thwart attempts to end the conflict peacefully.

"If the action announced by the US president – to the great regret of all of us – does in fact take place... it will put off the chances of [holding] this conference for a long time, if not forever," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Moreover, Syrian President Bashar Assad has warned that a military strike on Syria by the West would send the situation spiraling out of control and trigger a regional conflict.

“The Middle East is barrel of powder and today the flames are creeping closer. It is not just a question of the Syrian response, but what else might happen after the first [Western] air strike,” Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro.