News Column

Missile Detected by Russia Was Part of Israeli-U.S. Test

September 3, 2013

Israel and the United States test-fired an "experimental target missile" Tuesday in the Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli Defense Ministry said.

The announcement from Israel came after Russia said its early warning system detected the launch of two ballistic missiles.

It also came amid worries about U.S. discussions of possible military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

"The Ministry of Defense together with the American Agency for Missile Defense carried out the successful test of the experimental target missile Anchor," the Israeli ministry posted on its Facebook page.

The Defense Ministry said the launch took place at an Israeli Air Force base in the central part of the country and involved the firing and tracking of a Sparrow-type target missile, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"The experiment tested enhanced capabilities of a new type of target missile from the Sparrow series," the Defense Ministry said. "Arrow anti-missile defense systems, including radars and a command and control system, were also tested."

In Damascus, Assad warned an attack on Syria could set off a huge conflict and dared the West to provide "the slightest proof" he used chemical weapons.

"The Middle East is a powder keg and the fire is approaching," Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published Tuesday.

"Everyone will lose control of the situation once the powder keg explodes," he said. "Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of regional war exists."

Assad accused U.S. President Barack Obama of being a weak leader.

"If Obama was strong, he would have said publicly, 'We have no evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian state.' He would have said publicly: 'The only way to proceed is through U.N. investigations. We therefore refer everything to the Security Council.' But Obama is weak because he is facing pressure from within the United States," Assad said.

The Syrian leader challenged Obama and French President Francois Hollande, a strong supporter of U.S. calls for a limited military attack, to provide bona fide, indisputable evidence to support their allegation Syrian forces killed what the Obama and Hollande administrations said were more than 1,400 civilians in a gas attack against rebel-held Damascus suburbs Aug. 21.

The Syrian regime denies the allegations and accuses rebels of releasing the gas hoping to draw foreign intervention against Assad. The opposition denies unleashing toxic substances.

"Those who make accusations must provide proof," Assad told Le Figaro. "We challenge the United States and France to provide the slightest proof. Obama and Hollande have been incapable of doing this, even to their own people."

France released a nine-page declassified document Monday evening it says proves "undeniably" Assad's forces carried out the "massive and coordinated" chemical attack.

The report, in allegations similar to those made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accused the regime of using "extremely lethal" chemical weapons -- including the deadly nerve agent sarin -- to spread "terror" among civilian populations.

"The past events and the simultaneous and massive use of chemical weapons on the night of 21 August 2013 in the eastern suburb of Damascus thus confirm that the Syrian regime has deliberately crossed a line," the report said, adding its intelligence indicated "other actions of this nature could still be carried out."

Hollande's government Monday rejected French opposition calls for a parliamentary vote on French participation in a U.S.-led attack.

Assad also told Le Figaro it was too late to negotiate with rebel opponents.

"We are fighting terrorists. Eighty [percent] to 90 percent of those we are fighting belong to al-Qaida. They are not interested in reform or politics.

"The only way to deal with them is to annihilate them. Only then will we be able to talk about political measures," he said.

The Assad regime asked the United Nations Monday to stop the Obama administration from taking military action against Syria.

In and around Damascus, the Assad regime prepared for a U.S. attack despite a likely delay, The Wall Street Journal reported.

For more stories covering politics, please see HispanicBusiness' Politics Channel

Source: Copyright UPI 2013

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters