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Israelis say Mediterranean missile launch was a test

Israel has claimed responsibility for a missile launch in the Mediterranean, saying it was part of a military exercise with the US. The statement came after Russia reported detecting unknown missiles in the region.

The Israeli Defense Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday to confirm it was behind a mysterious missile launch in the Mediterranean Sea, moving quickly to dispel suspicions of a strike against Syria by the US military.

The test missile served as a practice target for its own anti-missile system, the Israeli defense ministry said, adding that the test had been conducted at 9:15 am (0615 GMT) together with the US military.

Less than two hours earlier, news agencies began reporting that Russia's early warning system spotted at least two ballistic "objects" being launched toward the eastern Mediterranean from the central region of the sea. The reports drew from information published by Russia's RIA and Interfax news agencies. Both quoted a defense ministry official as the source of the information.

The Russian military picked up the launch on its radar at 10:16 am Moscow time (0616 GMT), according to the defense ministry official, later adding that the missiles had fallen into the sea before they could hit land.

The Russian defense ministry official also did not indicate who had launched it.

An Israeli defense ministry spokesperson had originally said the country's military was unaware of a missile launch in the region.

The hint at a foreign military strike launched at the eastern Mediterranean region comes as international leaders debate whether to intervene militarily in Syria.

US President Barack Obama indicated on Saturday the US military stood ready to launch a strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime at any moment, but would not do so without Congressional approval. The US Congress is not due to reconvene until September 9.

Moscow remains opposed to military intervention against Assad and has criticized Washington's deployment of warships to the region in preparation for a possible military strike.

kms/pfd (AFP, Reuters)