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
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back