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Israel test fires missile amid Syria strike anxiety

Updated at 11:00 a.m. Eastern

MOSCOW Israel's Defense Ministry said Tuesday it had carried out a missile test in the Mediterranean sea, apparently explaining news alerts run about an hour earlier after Russia's radar systems detected two "ballistic objects" fired from the central Mediterranean toward the eastern part of the sea.

The Defense Ministry said that it, together with the U.S. Defense Department, had carried out a "successful test" in the Mediterranean and on an air force base in central Israel.

The test over sea, reportedly involving a missile launched from an Israeli warplane flying over the Mediterranean, came just days after President Obama made it clear he wants to carry out air strikes on Syria as punishment for the alleged use of chemical weapons by the government of President Bashar Assad.

A U.S. official in the region told CBS News that no missiles had been launched from American ships or aircraft on Tuesday, but in a statement released later in the day, the Pentagon confirmed U.S. involvement in the exercise.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. "provided technical assistance and support to the Israeli Missile Defense Organization flight test of a Sparrow target missile over the Mediterranean Sea."

"The United States and Israel cooperate on a number of long-term ballistic missile defense development projects to address common challenges in the region," added Little. "This test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack."

Israel said the test was of an upgraded version of the "sparrow" interceptor missile. "At 9:15 the sparrow missile successfully launched and performed its planned trajectory, in according with the test plan," said the Israeli Ministry of Defense in a written statement. "All the elements of the system performed according to their operational configuration."

Russian state-run news agencies RIA Novosti and ITAR-Tass earlier on Tuesday quoted a Defense Ministry employee as saying the nation's early warning radar station in southern Russia detected the launches at 0616 GMT (2:16 a.m. EDT). They said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin about the launches.

Russia is a close ally of the Syrian regime and has dismissed the Obama administration's insistence that it was Assad's government behind a deadly chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21, calling Washington's evidence "absolutely unconvincing."

As the White House makes its case to U.S. lawmakers for a military intervention, Russia said it would send a delegation to Washington to try and convince members of Congress that such action would be ill-advised.

Moscow has warned the White House not to go through with unilateral military action in Syria, saying it will only inflame the volatile situation and help Islamic militants fighting against Assad.

The United States which has five war ships in the Mediterranean, and President Obama has asked Congress for its approval of punitive strikes against targets in Syria.