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Israel Launches Test Missiles Amid Soaring Regional Tensions

Russian radar picked up activity over Mediterranean which prompted flurry of speculation

Jon Queally, staff writer

File picture of the USS Stout, one of five US warships operating in the eastern Mediterranean. (Photograph: PHAA JENNIFER ASPEY/AFP/Getty Images)

With Middle East tensions spiking amid concerns of a U.S.-led assault on Syria, Russian alarm bells caused a stir Tuesday morning after radar detected missile activity in the Mediterranean Sea.

As Reuters reports, however, the flurry of activity was related to joint Israel/U.S. missile testing with Israel Defense Ministry later confirming that it had "tested a missile used as a target in a U.S.-funded anti-missile system at 9:15 a.m (0615 GMT), about the same time as the Russian radar picked up the launch."

Though the Russians first said the objects appeared to have been launched from either U.S. or Israeli warships stationed in the Mediterranean, subsequent details and a statement from Israeli officials revealed the test was a ballistic missile launch from an Israeli base on land. As Haaretz reports:

The [Israeli] confirmation came after morning reports indicated that Russia had detected two ballistic "objects" launched toward the eastern Mediterranean from the central part of the same and a U.S. denial that its navy had been involved.

The Arrow III missile defense system was tested with a "sparrow" missile, which simulates a ballistic missile launched from a plane during the exercise.

The exercise was carried out from an Israel Air Force base in central Israel, the Defense Ministry said in the statement.

The U.S. would only say that "no missiles" were fired from its ships.

"This is Israel saying 'we can defend ourselves'. They do these tests frequently but they would have chosen today as a reminder (to Israel's enemies)," said Tim Marshall, foreign affairs editor for Sky News, which also covered the confusing events of Tuesday morning.

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