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With eye on Syria, Israel tests missiles with U.S.

By Daniel Estrin

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:54 a.m. HST, Sep 03, 2013


JERUSALEM » Israel and the U.S. conducted a joint missile test over the Mediterranean tosday, in a display of military prowess as the Obama administration seeks congressional support for strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Any U.S. strikes, in retaliation for alleged chemical weapons use by the Assad regime, are not expected before next week when Congress returns from summer recess.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said the test of its Arrow 3 missile-defense system was performed together with the U.S. Defense Department.

The system successfully detected and tracked a medium-range decoy missile that was not carrying a warhead, the ministry said, but did not intercept it.

"A successful test was held to check our systems," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said. "We will continue to develop and research and equip the Israeli military with the best systems in the world."

In Washington, there was no immediate White House comment.

Experts and defense officials said the test had been scheduled weeks ago and was not directly connected to the current tensions in the region.

Uzi Rubin, former head of the Arrow system, said the test was "completely technical. Nothing connected to Syria." He said the "only message" it would send was that Israel has "good missile defense systems."

Nonetheless, it served as a reminder to Syria and its patron, Iran, that Israel is pressing forward with development of a "multilayered" missile-defense system. Both Syria and Iran, and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah, possess vast arsenals of rockets and missiles.

The Arrow 3, expected to be operational around 2016, would be the first such "multilayer" missile-defense system, designed to intercept long-range missiles such the Iranian Shahab before they re-enter the atmosphere.

Last year, Israel also successfully tested a system designed to intercept missiles with ranges of up to 300 kilometers (180 miles) which is expected to be operational by early 2015.

Another system for short-range rockets successfully shot down hundreds fired from the Gaza Strip during eight days of fighting in November, and more recently intercepted a rocket fired from Lebanon.

Meanwhile in Syria, regime troops recaptured the town of Ariha, a busy commercial center in the restive northern province of Idlib following days of heavy bombardment, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group obtains information from a network of anti-regime activists.

Ariha has changed hands several times in the past two years. Rebels had succeeded in wrestling it from government control late last month.

Since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in March 2011, the two sides have fought to a stalemate, though the Assad regime has retaken the offensive in recent months. Rebel fighters control large rural stretches in northern and eastern Syria, while Assad is holding on to most of the main urban areas.

Also Tuesday, rebels detonated a bomb along a gas pipeline near the northeastern town of Deir el-Zour, the state-run Syrian news agency SANA reported.

The Observatory confirmed that a fire had broken out along the pipeline, but said it had no details on the reporting bombing.

The eastern province of Deir el-Zour, along Syria's border with Iraq, is one of the two main centers of the country's oil production. The rebels have been seizing oil fields there since late 2012. It is not clear how much of the fields they control. Activists and state media say most of Syria's fields are no longer under direct government control.

The Syrian conflict, which began as a popular uprising against Assad in March 2011, later degenerated into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

The U.N. refugee agency announced Tuesday that the number of Syrians who have fled the country has surpassed the 2 million mark.

Along with more than four million people displaced inside Syria, this means more than six million Syrians have been uprooted, out of an estimated population of 23 million.

Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Syria is hemorrhaging an average of almost 5,000 citizens a day across its borders, many of them with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Nearly 1.8 million refugees have fled in the past 12 months alone, he said.

The agency's special envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, said "some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse" if the situation keeps deteriorating at its current pace. Most Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Despite the grim toll, Assad has not shown any signs of backing down.

Assad and some in his inner circle are from Syria's minority Alawites, or followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, who believe they would not have a place in Syria if the rebels win. Most of those trying to topple Assad are Sunni Muslims, with Islamic militants, including those linked to the al-Qaida terror network, increasingly dominant among the rebels.

The missile test came at a time of heightened tensions as Washington weighs sea-launched strikes against Syria. Israel has been increasingly concerned that it could be drawn into Syria's brutal civil war.

Since the weekend, the Obama administration has been lobbying for congressional support for military action against the Assad regime.

The administration says it has evidence that Assad's forces launched attacks with chemical weapons on rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus on Aug. 21. The U.S. has alleged that the nerve agent sarin was used and that at least 1,429 people were killed, including more than 400 children.

Last week, President Barack Obama appeared poised to authorize military strikes, but unexpectedly stepped back over the weekend to first seek approval from Congress, which returns from summer recess next week.

On Monday, the U.S. administration won backing from French intelligence and reportedly also from Germany's spy agency for its claim that Assad's forces were responsible for the suspected chemical weapons attacks.

The Assad regime has denied using chemical weapons, blaming rebels instead. Neither the U.S. nor Syria and its allies have presented conclusive proof in public.

Karin Laub in Beirut contributed to this report.







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HD36 wrote:
The Russians knew they couldn't compete with the US across all the military weapons spectrum so they concentrated their efforts on one. They developed the Sun Burn Missile and the next generation to it, the Onyx Missile. The Tomohawk Cruise Missile hasn't been improved for about 25 years. If Syria has these missiles, Israel should be worried along with the US Naval Fleet.
on September 3,2013 | 05:43AM
allie wrote:
We have no good reason to bomb Syria at all. They are in a civil war with AQ a real threat to the tyrant Assad. Oddly, we likely should be an ally with Assad against terrorism as should Israel
on September 3,2013 | 06:32AM
kukunaokala wrote:
Now which Political party was against these systems of missile defense? Thats right, the Democrats! Who remembers this now?
on September 3,2013 | 05:51AM
jayz43 wrote:
Déjà vu: Vietnam war was the misinformation of the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq war was misinformation of WMDs, and now BO wants a “narrow, limited strike” to “save face”. The other two conflicts had enormous unintended consequences because things got out of control. We are headed to war because of an inept leader who doesn't have a clue and thinks he is the smartest man in the room. Take the time to read this article on Syria, especially points 12 and 13. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/your-labor-day-syria-reader-part-2-william-polk/279255/
on September 3,2013 | 06:44AM
kawikakoike96819 wrote:
jayz43 - THANK YOU! Very informative.
on September 3,2013 | 07:40AM
DABLACK wrote:
What happens if Congress does not approve of going in to Syria ?? Will we have to put up with another E.O. for the "good of the American people ?? How many more of our warriors will we lose ??
on September 3,2013 | 07:12AM
MariaBetty wrote:
Al Qaida or Hezzbollah, let the terrorists sort it out without US involved.
on September 3,2013 | 08:17AM
Oahuan wrote:
Stay out of the conflict. Why should we risk our sons and daughters because of Obama's BIG MOUTH! The only weakness is Obama failure to act 2 years ago. Too busy with the Trayvon Martin issue and he let the important issues slide.
on September 3,2013 | 08:44AM
false wrote:
Let the lying Israelis fight their own war. When news that the Soviets had detected two missiles being fired last night, the Israelis were among the first to deny any knowledge. Today, we know differently.
on September 3,2013 | 09:04AM
HD36 wrote:
We're going to war. No doubt. This move was predicted years ago by Marc Faber and Gerald Celente. I haven't heard anything yet on the cost of this war by the main stream media. Estimates are $1 billion a day. Of course that's not much compared to $85 billion a month borrowed from the Federal Reserve. This kind of thing usually coincides or precedes an economic collapse, which can be blamed on the war. For sure, we will be facing shortages of everything if we go to war. Interest rates will spike as the US falls further into unsustainable debt, and lastly, we'll get massive inflation, expecially for food and gas. Funny how this coincides with the G20 meeting in Russia. Obama will be there while Russia and China discuss replacing the dollar with gold backed trading notes. I take it that if they go through with that, the US will attack. If they back off, we won't attack.
on September 3,2013 | 09:14AM
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