In what looked an awful lot like a show of military force, Israel and the United States conducted a joint missile test over the Mediterranean this morning, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry. The ministry said a medium-range Sparrow missile was launched shortly after 9 a.m. local time and was successfully detected and tracked by the Arrow missile defense system.
The test itself wouldn't have normally been major news, but these aren't exactly normal times in the Middle East, as the world waits to see if the United States launches its own missile strikes at Syria. Making matters that much more intense was the fact that this morning's test was unannounced ahead of time. Reuters with the details:
The morning launch was first reported by Moscow media that quoted Russian defense officials as saying two ballistic "objects" had been fired eastward from the center of the sea—roughly in the direction of Syria.
The news ruffled financial markets until Israel's Defence Ministry said that it, along with a Pentagon team, had carried out a test-launch of a Sparrow missile. The Sparrow, which simulates the long-range missiles of Syria and Iran, is used for target practice by Israel's U.S.-backed ballistic shield Arrow.
Despite the suspicious timing, Israeli and American officials both shrugged off the idea that the tests were meant to send a message to Assad and his allies. "Israel routinely fires missiles or drones off its shores to test its own ballistic defense capabilities," an unnamed U.S. official in Washington told Reuters.