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Israel says it conducted joint missile test with U.S.

9/3/2013

By DANIEL ESTRIN

By DANIEL ESTRIN

Associated Press

JERUSALEM -- Israel and the U.S. conducted a joint missile test today over the Mediterranean, an apparent 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 gets back from summer recess.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said the test was performed together with the U.S. Defense Department. A Sparrow missile was launched successfully at 9:15 a.m. and followed its planned trajectory. The Arrow missile defense system successfully detected and tracked the target, the ministry said. It was not clear from the statement if the Sparrow was shot down.

The Sparrow is a medium-range guided missile that can be launched either from the surface or the air to hit aerial targets, according to the manufacturer.

In Washington, there was no immediate White House comment.

The missile test came at a time of heightened tensions as Washington weighs sea-launched strikes against Syria. Israel increasingly has been concerned it will be drawn into Syria's brutal civil war, which repeatedly has spilled over into neighboring countries.

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

The administration said it has evidence 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 the nerve agent sarin was used and 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 during 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 Assad's forces were responsible for the suspected chemical weapons attacks.

A nine-page intelligence synopsis published by the French government concluded the regime launched the attacks involving a "massive use of chemical agents" and could carry out similar strikes in the future.

In Germany, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) also believes Assad's regime was behind the attacks. On its website, the magazine reported BND head Gerhard Schindler recently told top government officials in a secret briefing that while the evidence is not absolutely conclusive, an "analysis of plausibility" supports the idea of the Syrian government as the perpetrator.

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.