Israel said it had conducted a joint missile test with the United States over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday, hours after Russia's announcement of its detection of missile launches added to jitters about possible military action against the Syrian regime.
Israel's defence ministry said it had successfully tested a new version of the Sparrow target missile, which is said to be part of the indigenously developed Arrow anti-missile system. The test was carried out with the US missile defence agency, the ministry said in a statement.
"This is the first flight out test of this new version of the Sparrow, and was conducted at an Israeli test range over the Mediterranean Sea," the statement said.
Earlier, Russia announced that its early warning system had detected the launch of two missiles at sea, adding to region-wide jitters over a possible US military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Tuesday warned against any attack on Israel in response to threats from radical elements in West Asia. "The reality around us is changing. I want to say to anyone who wants to harm us -- it is not advisable," Netanyahu said on the margins of an official event in Beersheba.
Analysts believe Tuesday's missile test was part of preparations against a possible long-range missile attack on Israel in retaliation to any US-led military action against Syria. The missile test came at a time of heightened tensions as Washington mulls sea-launched strikes against Syria.
Israel has been increasingly concerned that it will be drawn into Syria's civil war that has spilled over into neighbouring countries.
Since the weekend, the Obama administration has been lobbying for Congressional support for military action against Syria. The US says it has evidence that Assad's forces launched a chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus on August 21. The US has alleged that the nerve agent sarin was used and that at least 1,429 people were killed, including over 400 children.
Last week, US President Barack Obama appeared poised to authorise military strikes, but stepped back to first seek approval from the Congress, which returns from recess next week.
Image: An Israeli soldier adjusts sights on a tank during a drill in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel strengthened its missile defences as precautions against possible Syrian attack should Western powers carry out threatened strikes on Syria.
Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters