JERUSALEM - Tensions over Syria ratcheted up a notch on Tuesday after Russia's Defense Ministry said it detected traces of ballistic "objects" - now claimed by Israel - launched from an area in the central Mediterranean and moving in an easterly direction.
After some initial confusion over who was responsible, the Israeli military said it was behind the launch, saying it was carrying out a joint missile test with the United States.
Israel's Defense Ministry said in a statement the test of its "new version of the Sparrow target missile" was "successful." The Sparrow is an anti-missile system developed by the Israeli firm Rafael in conjunction with Boeing.
However, it was not immediately clear to what extent the U.S. was involved in the missile test. Earlier, CBS News tweeted that a U.S. official confirmed that American ships or planes were not involved in the missile launches.
Separately, Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander William Speaks told the Associated Press: "I have nothing to confirm those reports whatsoever."
A military official told NBC News that there was no direct involvement by the U.S. in Tuesday's anti-missile test.
But Yaacov Havakook, the head of the international media department at Israel's Defense Ministry, confirmed that the test was conducted in full partnership with the U.S. He said he did not know when it was planned.
Mordechai Kedar, previously of the Israel Defense Force's military intelligence wing, said the test was likely carried out "to signal to the Syrians that everybody knows what Syria is doing, and that the regime could pay a very high price" for these atrocities.
The development comes amid heightened tensions in the region as Congress prepares to hold a vote on whether the U.S. should take military action in Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"There is no doubt that this was a warning shot," Kedar said. "There is more military and intelligence cooperation and coordination between the U.S. and Israel than ever before."
Earlier, Russia's state-run Interfax news agency said the "targets fell into the sea" and the Russian embassy in Syria said there was no sign of a missile attack or explosions in Damascus. Moscow said the launch was detected at 10:16 a.m. local time (2:16 a.m. ET).
Sparrow constitutes one layer of Israel's four-layer anti-missile defense system, according to Israel's Hayom newspaper. The four layers are "the Iron Dome, David's Sling (currently in development), the Arrow 2 and the Arrow 3 (in development)," Hayom reported.
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