JUST IN: U.S. official says no American ships or planes have launched missiles in Mediterranean after Russians report "ballistic objects”
It began around 5 a.m. EDT, when Russia’s RIA Novosti reported that two ballistic objects had been detected heading eastward, toward Syria, from the central Mediterranean Sea.
Twenty minutes later, there was no sign of an attack in Damascus. A spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Force said the military was “not aware, at this time, of such an event having occurred.”
The U.S., which has at least three warships in the Mediterranean, also began denying any American involvement. (Though President Obama said Saturday he wants to strike Syria in response to Aug. 21’s deadly gas attack, he is waiting for congressional approval.)
At the same time, RIA reported that the two “objects” had fallen into the sea.
Just before 6:30 a.m., Israel announced it actually had fired missiles in the Mediterranean, as part of a joint military exercise with the U.S.
From the Associated Press:
The Israeli Defense Ministry said the test was performed together with the U.S. Defense Department. A Sparrow missile was launched successfully at 9:15 a.m. and followed its planned trajectory. The Arrow missile defense system successful detected and tracked the target, the ministry said. It was not clear from the statement if the Sparrow was shot down.
Despite Israel’s assertion that it was a joint exercise, the U.S. still denied “direct” involvement. A Pentagon spokesman told the AP that he had “nothing to confirm those reports whatsoever.”
Reuters later characterized the Israeli test as “U.S.-backed.”
“Israel routinely fires missiles or drones off its shores to test its own ballistic defense capabilities,” a U.S. official told the news wire.
“There is no doubt that this was a warning shot,” a former IDF military intelligence official told USA Today. “There is more military and intelligence cooperation and coordination between the U.S. and Israel than ever before.”