Syria tensions rise as Israel test-fires missile defence system

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File image provided by the US Navy shows a RIM-7P Sea Sparrow missile being launched from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, August 13, 2007. Photo: AFP
Israel on Tuesday announced the successful launch of a missile in a joint exercise with the United States, which came as Washington mulls military intervention in Syria.
The Israeli Defense Ministry announced the joint military exercise on Tuesday, shortly after Russia\’s Defense Ministry said it had detected the launch of "ballistic objects" in the region.
Israel\’s ministry says it launched one Ankor-type missile that was controlled from a base in "the center of Israel."
The United States had no immediate comment on the exercise which came at a time of heightened tensions in the region as the U.S. mulls a possible response to the Syrian government\’s alleged chemical weapons attack.
Earlier, the UN confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees from the 30-month conflict.
More Syrians were now displaced than any other nationality, it said.
The US Congress is set to begin its hearings on the case for intervention, with President Barack Obama seeking to persuade sceptical politicians and the American people of the need for a military response to the suspected chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August.
The US has put the death toll from the attack at 1,429, including 426 children, though other countries and organisations have given lower figures.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the top US military officer, Gen Martin Dempsey, are to appear before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
There will also be a classified briefing for all members of Congress.
President Obama is also meeting the leaders of a number of House and Senate committees, including armed services, foreign relations and intelligence.
He said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had to be held accountable for the chemical attack and that he was confident Congress would back military action.
Obama said he was proposing limited military action that would degrade President Assad\’s capacity to use chemical weapons "now and in the future", while the US would also conduct a broader strategy of upgrading the capabilities of the opposition.
A vote in Congress is expected next week.
Earlier, the UN refugee agency, said that more than two million Syrians were now registered as refugees, after the total went up by a million in the past six months.
More than 100,000 people are estimated to have died since the conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011, and the conflict has produced at least 1.7 million refugees.
Source: Agencies

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