Earlier today, Russian media began to carry an alert from Russians Ministry of Defense that two “ballistic targets” were spotted over the Mediterranean sea. The inference was that this was related to impending U.S. intervention in Syria.
Now, the Israeli Defense Force and the Pentagon have confirmed that this was a test of an Israeli missile defense system. The claim is that this test had nothing to do with Syria, but was part of an ongoing process of bolstering Israel’s defenses.
Some Russian watchers have claimed that the publicity in the Russian press was the Russian government showing the world that it could track incoming threats to the Syrian government.
Below is a translation of a Russian report in Slon. – Ed.
The Russian missile warning system recorded a launch of two ballistic targets in the Mediterranean Sea. This was reported by RIA “Novosti” citing the Ministry of Defence:
“The launch was detected (at 10:16, Moscow time) by the combat crew of a separate radar station of the Armavir MSW”.
Shoigu immediately reported to Putin on the missiles. However, the Russian Embassy officials in Damascus have not yet confirmed that the attack took place. Perhaps the Americans or someone else just tried to intimidate Assad.
Later, Russia Today and Russian news agencies reported that the two missiles fell into the sea. Based on this information, a military-diplomatic source in Moscow suggested that the missiles could be part of a meteorological reconnaissance mission.
The United States, Britain, France and Israel do not have any knowledge of the launches. The acting U.S. Department of Defense spokesman said that his agency did not have any information on ballistic missiles over the Mediterranean. Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman also said: “We do not have any information about anything like that”. A little later, the CBS reported, citing a source in Washington, that no U.S. aircraft or ships made any launches in the Mediterranean.
Another hour later, the Israeli Ministry of Defense stated that the missiles everybody is concerned about were just targets used to test the Israeli missile defense system and the launch was carried out jointly with the United States. The launched missiles fell into the sea about 300 km off the coast.
The markets reacted to the news quite swiftly, according to Business Insider. Oil prices went up, as well as the price of gold. Overall the European stock markets went sharply down, but soon started to rebound.
Just yesterday, on Monday evening, the CNN told the audience that one of the ships of the Russian navy formation in the Mediterranean Sea could become an “Assad’s secret weapon”, helping to track missile launches.
Franz Klintsevich, the deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Defense believes that the missile launches suggest that the United States are preparing for an operation against Syria:
“This is preparatory fire, a sure sign that the ground operation will start, and maybe it will start with air strikes, using high-precision weapons”.
Klintsevich believes that direct missile strikes will be guided by spotters among the Syrian rebels, just like during air strikes against Yugoslavia, and today’s launch is a way to intimidate Syria.