The powerful blast seen at a sensitive site in central Israel Tuesday was not an explosion, but the test of a solid rocket motor of the type used in ballistic missiles, a U.S. nuclear researcher said Saturday.
Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control and nonproliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter that the test took place at Sdot Micha, west of Beit Shemesh, basing his assessments on satellite photos taken by Planet Labs, among other sources.
Foreign reports have said that there is an Israeli Air Force base at the site. The website GlobalSecurity says that the base houses Jericho surface-to-surface missiles.
Over the past two months, Planet Labs has photographed construction at the Dimona nuclear plant, as well as at the secretive site at Sdot Micha.
The blast took place during a “routine test” by the Tomer advanced arms manufacturer, which develops rocket engines for Ofek satellite launchers and various types of missiles, including Israel’s Arrow missile interception system. Locals say they heard an explosion and saw a mushroom cloud.
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In response to the blast, Tomer said “this was a controlled test with no exceptional circumstances.”