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Israel, US conduct missile defense test in Mediterranean

JERUSALEM — Israel and the United States tested a new air-defense system Tuesday, launching a missile over the Mediterranean Sea that caused consternation in Syria and Russia given the heightened tension in the region as the Obama administration weighs a military strike in Syria.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the first test of the latest version of the Sparrow target missile had been successful, with the missile following its planned trajectory toward the Israeli coast and the Arrow radar system detecting and tracking its path. Myriam Nahon, a spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry, declined to answer questions about whether the test had been connected in any way to the situation in Syria, saying only that such tests are “conducted periodically,” and “it happens whenever it has to happen.”

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In Washington, the Pentagon said in a statement that it had provided technical assistance and support to the Israelis for the Sparrow test launch. The statement said the test had nothing to do with US preparations for possible military action against Syria.

“The test was long planned to help the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system’s ability to detect, track and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel,” the statement said.

Arieh Herzog, the former head of Israel’s missile-defense program, said the test was “a routine part of what is done in the development of the defense systems.”

“In regular days the Russians would not see it,” Herzog said. “But right now they have probably many sensors looking at the region, so each and every movement or flying object in the region is something that they look at and try to understand what happens. They may be thinking that it may be something that is connected to the Syrian situation, but it is not.”

On its Facebook page, the Defense Ministry posted a 33-second video of a jet releasing the missile and said in its statement that “all the elements of the system performed according to their operational configuration.”

Commenting on the missile test, Moshe Yaalon, Israeli defense minister, said the preparedness by the Israel Defense Forces in the past week was “founded on many technological capabilities, which need to be tested by the defense establishment and the army, and indeed a successful test was held.” He also said: “Our systems need to be examined and we will continue to develop, share and provide the IDF with the best systems in the world.”

Yaalon added that Israel had not been involved in the US policy process regarding Syria and noted that given the postponement of any possible military strike, the army had released some reservists called up last week.

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