Israel and the USA have conducted a joint test of a new anti-missile system, in a move thought to be aimed at sending a message to Iran.
Israel’s Missile Defence Organisation – a subsidiary of the country’s Defence Ministry – and the US Missile Defence Agency tested the Arrow 3 anti-missile system in the early hours of this morning.
Working with the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) – the company which manufactures the Arrow 3 – a dummy missile was launched near the coastal Israeli city of Ashdod shortly before 06:45. The dummy was meant to simulate the type of long-range ballistic missiles the system is designed to intercept, the Times of Israel reported.
Israel’s Defence Ministry said in a statement that “following the launch [of the dummy missile], the Arrow’s radar spotted the target […] and transferred the data to its fire management center, which analyzed it and [then an] interceptor was fired at the target.”
The US’ agency also issued a statement, saying that:
This successful test provides confidence in Israel’s capability to protect itself from existing threats in the region […] We are committed to assisting the government of Israel in upgrading its national missile defense capability against emerging threats.
The US’ reference to “existing threats in the region” has led commentators to interpret the joint testing exercise as a not-so-subtle message to Iran, which Israel claims is working to develop long range missiles of the type the Arrow 3 is designed to intercept.
The Jerusalem Post placed the test in the context of “rising tension on Israel’s northern border with Syria,” no doubt referring to Israeli air strikes carried out against what it claims are Iranian targets in Syria early yesterday morning. The Israeli army said in a statement: “We have started striking Iranian Quds [Force] targets in Syrian territory. We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory,” as witnesses described loud explosions near the Syrian capital Damascus.
Despite its official policy of non-intervention in the Syrian civil war – which has been raging in the country for almost eight years – Israel has repeatedly conducted air strikes on Syrian territory to prevent the “entrenchment” of Iranian proxy forces. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue such attacks, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin – who has long been supportive of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad – earlier this month that “Israel insists on continuing its efforts aimed at undermining the Iranian military’s repositioning in Syria”.
Though thus far Israel’s attacks have been limited to Iranian targets in Syria, last week a Tel Aviv think tank concluded that Israel may need to invade Iran to prevent it from threatening Israel’s northern border. The report – published by the Institute for National Security (INSS) – found that “the most serious threat facing Israel in 2019 would be an all-out war in the north involving Iran, [Lebanon’s] Hezbollah and Syria”. It also pointed out that, in light of US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria, “Israel may need to go it alone and invade Iran”.