Syria crisis: Tensions rise as US-Israel test missiles over Mediterranean

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With Assad calling the Middle East a ‘barrel of powder’ ready to explode, Russians raise alarm after detecting east-bound missiles launched from central part of the Mediterranean Sea

Israel and the US have conducted a missile weapons test in the Mediterranean, firing two “ballistic objects” from a central part of the sea towards the Middle East coastline.

In a move which will come as a warning shot to the Syrian government, the missiles were launched at approximately 7.16am (BST) this morning and allowed to fall into the sea.

The military activity was first registered by the Russian defence ministry, which alerted President Vladimir Putin to the fact that its early warning radar system had detected two separate launches.

While this sparked fears of an imminent strike in Damascus, Syrian security forces told Lebanese state TV that their own radar system had not picked up any missiles over their territory, and the Russian embassy confirmed the missiles did not impact on the ground.

A US spokesman for the Pentagon said they could not confirm the initial reports, and later told Reuters that no missiles had been fired from US Navy ships.

While a representative from Israel’s defence ministry at first said they too were “not aware of such an event having occurred”, they have now issued a statement to the news agency saying they did indeed carry out a test on one of their US-funded missile systems at 7.15am (BST) – around the time of the Russian reports.

Russia had previously criticised the US for moving its ships into the Mediterranean, and within range of a strike on Syria.

“The pressure being applied by the United States causes particular concern,” the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Russian Defence Ministry official Oleg Dogayev as saying.

He said: “The dispatch of ships armed with cruise missiles toward Syria’s shores has a negative effect on the situation in the region.”

And the potentially provocative exercise today comes as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the Middle East is a “barrel of power” ready to explode after the first Western air strike.

 

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