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Israel Launches Ballistic Missile in Trial: Report

An Israeli ballistic missile purportedly took flight in a trial on Wednesday amid intensified open discussion over Jerusalem's potential use of military force against Iranian atomic assets, Reuters reported (see GSN, Jan. 17, 2008).

"Israel today carried out the test-firing of a rocket propulsion system from the Palmachim base (in central Israel)," the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a press release. "This had been planned by the defense establishment a long time ago and has been carried out as scheduled."

The system fired was a ballistic missile, according to Israel Radio, which routinely receives updates on security issues from high-level military officials. A Defense Ministry representative refused to provide details on the vetted technology.

"This is an impressive technological achievement and an important step in Israel's advances in the realms of missiles and space, which has been a long time in the planning," according to a prepared statement from Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Israel in 2008 conducted a trial of a dual-stage ballistic missile capable of traveling significant distances; the weapon operated as intended. The nation is commonly assumed to be the only nuclear-armed country in the Middle East, though it abides by a longstanding policy of neither confirming nor denying it possesses a nuclear deterrent.

The Middle Eastern state is popularly thought to wield nuclear-ready Jericho missiles (see GSN, Oct. 27). The country's Arrow system provides part of a growing missile defense capability (see GSN, Oct. 11).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak might have chosen to avoid seeking backing from other top officials in determining to take armed action against Iranian atomic sites, according to a recent media report. Israel and other nations suspect Iran's nuclear program is geared toward weapons development; Tehran has insisted its atomic ambitions are strictly nonmilitary in nature (see related GSN story, today).

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor sought to create a clear distinction between the test launch and the standoff with Iran. "The two things are separate," he said, also blasting as "unconscionable" talk that Barak and Netanyahu are making moves toward use of military force against Israel's longtime antagonist (Dan Williams, Reuters, Nov. 2).

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