WASHINGTON, September 3 (RIA Novosti) – A joint US-Israeli missile test over the Mediterranean Sea was “long planned” and had “nothing to do” with a possible US military response to the chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that Washington has blamed on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
“Early this morning, the United States Department of Defense provided technical assistance and support to the Israeli Missile Defense Organization flight test of a Sparrow target missile over the Mediterranean Sea,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.
“The test was long planned to help evaluate the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system's ability to detect, track, and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel. This test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack,” the statement added.
US President Barack Obama last week called for a “tailored” and limited US response to the apparent chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, which Washington says killed at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.
He later said he would take the question of a US military response to Congress and allow lawmakers to decide if the United States should take military action against Syria.
Russia, which is vehemently against US intervention in the Syrian civil war, has argued that the Obama administration does not have sufficient proof that the Assad regime was behind the chemical weapons attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that allegations that the Syrian government was behind the chemical weapons attack were a “provocation” to drag other countries into the conflict. Assad has himself denied using chemical weapons against civilians.
Amid the sky-high tensions over Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier Tuesday that its ballistic missile early warning system had detected the launch of two "ballistic targets,” traveling eastward from the central Mediterranean region.
A diplomatic source in the Syrian capital, Damascus, told RIA Novosti that the targets fell into the sea.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel confirmed conducting a successful missile test with the US military “shortly after Russia said it detected missile launches at sea.”
An Israeli Defense Ministry representative told RIA Novosti that the two targets detected by the Russian military were part of “a test of the… target missile that is used for testing our missile defense system.”
The tests were conducted jointly with the United States and were successfully tracked by radars in Israel, the official said.
The Arrow weapon system was developed by US aerospace giant Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Israel Ministry of Defense. The Sparrow is a target missile that simulates the trajectories of long-range ballistic missiles.