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
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power