International

Israel confirms missile test in Mediterranean

Action comes amid growing speculation of whether the US, allies will strike Syria over alleged chemical weapons use

The test involved an Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense System similar to the one seen here.
Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli Defense Ministry said that it carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea Tuesday morning. The test comes amid heightened tensions as Washington -- which has warships on standby in the region -- considers launching military strikes against Syria and the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. says Assad's regime launched a chemical attack last month in the suburbs of Damascus that resulted in nearly 1,500 deaths.

Russian state-owned news agencies had earlier reported that Russian radar systems detected two "ballistic objects" fired from the central Mediterranean toward the eastern part of the sea.

Israel said it carried out the successful test of a Sparrow missile, which was used as a target in a U.S.-funded anti-missile system known as the Arrow 2 Ballistic Missile Defense. The Defense Ministry said Tuesday that it, together with the U.S. Defense Department, had carried out a "successful test" in the Mediterranean and on an air force base in central Israel.

However, U.S. military offiicals told NBC News that the U.S. did not fire any missiles. In fact, the Pentagon said the test was "long planned" to evaluate the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system. 

"This test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement. 

Israeli officials have been careful about voicing their thoughts on how the U.S. should respond in Syria.

But Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a radio interview on Monday that he had "full faith in President Obama's moral and operational stance."

"I recommend patience," Peres said. "I am confident that the United States will respond in the right way to Syria."

On Monday Assad described the Middle East as a "powder keg" and said the region would "explode" if the U.S. and its allies executed a military strike on Syria.

Syria's War
Click for Al Jazeera's special coverage of the conflict in Syria

The U.S., which has warships in the Mediterranean, is considering strikes against Syria for the alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 in which the U.S. says 1,429 people, including more than 400 children, were killed.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that hair and blood samples provided to the U.S. from the site of the attack contained "signatures of sarin." Sarin is a chemical nerve agent that can cause convulsions and attacks of the respiratory system.

Syria's conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past 2 1/2 years. The fight has evolved from a government crackdown on a largely peaceful protest movement into a full-scale civil war. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists and officials on the ground for its information, says that more than 110,000 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2011.

The United Nations also said Tuesday that more than two million refugees, including one million children, have now fled the country.

Wire services

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