Israel last week tested a ballistic missile and conducted a training exercise for the Arrow rocket-defense unit, as tensions over Iran's nuclear program mounted once again.
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"[On Friday] Israel conducted a launch of the rocket propulsion system from the Palmahim base," the Defense Ministry said in a statement. "The launch was conducted as part of a test that was planned by the defense establishment in advance.”
The missile's trail of smoke could be seen throughout the coastal region. In the days before the test, the air space around Palmahim was closed, signalling that a test might be in the offing.
The test might have been of an advanced Jericho missile, which reportedly has a range of about 7,000 kilometers and can carry a warhead weighing more than 1,000 kilograms. That would be the third test of a Jericho in the past five years.
In 2008, a missile test at Palmahim reportedly demonstrated improved range. According to foreign media, Israel has an arsenal of Jericho missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
Also last week, the air force unit that operates the Arrow rocket-defense system conducted an exercise at various sites throughout the country. In the drill, batteries were deployed in the field, and all members of the unit took part, including reservists especially called up.
“We are practicing operational and battle scenarios under heavy fire,” Lt. Col. Uri Eyal, the unit’s commander, told the air force's website.
Iran's nuclear program has returned to the headlines before the Brussels meeting Tuesday at which the six major powers will discuss whether to resume direct talks with Tehran in September.
"Now, more than ever, given Iranian progress, it’s important to intensify the economic sanctions and present a credible military option against Iran,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said last week that following Iran's presidential election, Israel's policy remained to stop the Iranian nuclear program, "one way or another."
“If the Iranian leadership exploits diplomatic talks to ease the economic sanctions but continues to enrich [uranium] – and the president-elect has written in his book about a ‘talk and enrich strategy’ – we will obviously not let this go by,” Ya'alon said.