Syria crisis: US and Israel test defence missiles over Mediterranean as House backs military intervention

 

A missile defence test carried out by the United States and Israel in the eastern Mediterranean today escalated tensions across the region and triggered a military alert out of Moscow just as President Obama made fresh headway towards winning congressional approval for strikes on Syria.

Oil prices spiked briefly on world markets when Moscow issued a bulletin saying it had detected two “ballistic” objects flying over the Mediterranean. Any military intervention by the US, which could come as early as next week pending congressional action, is likely to be launched at sea.

Israeli officials later confirmed the unannounced exercise, saying that with the Pentagon it had fired an unarmed “decoy missile” over the sea to test its Arrow 3 missile defence system. It had been successful, they said, but no attempt had been made to intercept the decoy.

Even before Mr Obama revealed his decision on Saturday to await Congress before taking military action, the regime of Bashar al-Assad was warning it had its “finger on the trigger” to respond. It is isn’t clear whether the threat is real or empty, but Israel has been bracing for possible retaliatory strikes.

In Washington, the momentum towards US action appeared to increase. After talks between Mr Obama and leaders of both sides in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, the Republican Speaker, emerged offering support. “This is something that the United States as a country needs to do,” he said.

Testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations panel tonight, Mr Kerry was pressed to accept that any authorising resolution from Congress would have to rule out the use of troops in Syria. “There will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war,” he said. “Let’s shut that door right now.”

At the same hearing, Chuck Hagel, the Defence Secretary, said other countries likely to be directly involved in military action would include France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

How Congress will respond to Mr Obama’s request for a green light for strike remains unpredictable, but the backing of Mr Boehner is significant. Nancy Pelosi, who leads the Democrat minority in the House, also gave the President strong support saying the evidence that Assad had killed thousands in a chemical gas attack on a Damascus suburb two weeks ago was “behaviour outside the circle of civilized human behaviour and we must respond”.

Opening the meeting, Mr Obama stressed he had narrow military action in mind but hinted that beyond them the US would step up efforts to assist the rebels fighting Assad. “What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad’s capabilities,” he said.

“At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Data Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of this mu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - £40,000 - £70,000 OTE

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness