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Israel Successfully Tests ‘Ballistic Missile’

Israel successfully tests the Jericho missile, which foreign reports say can strike Iran carrying a nuclear payload.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/2/2011, 5:23 PM

Israel successfully test-fired a  "ballistic missile" that could be used to strike Iran, Israel Radio reported Wednesday.

Further information about the test was censored by the military. Foreign reports, however, said the military test-fired a long-range missile – capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran.

Development of the multi-staged missile was begun in 2008 using the operational Jericho III missile as a base, which defense officials said at the time would be capable of carrying "conventional or unconventional payloads."

A US Congressional report on the Jericho initiative in 2004 estimated Israel's plans to develop a ballsitic missile would give Israel the ability to deliver a payload of 1,000-1,300 kilograms to anywhere in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and most of North America.  

An Israeli defense official told the Associated Press that the military tested a "rocket propulsion system" in an exercise planned long ago.

The Jericho test comes amid a frenzy of speculation in Israel's media about whether senior officials - namely prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak - are pushing for a military strike on Tehran's nuclear program.

But senior ministers in Netanyahu's cabinet slammed the media with foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman saying 99% of the speculation was "false."

The reports caused unease in Tehran, where senior military officials responded by threatening both the Israel and the US with a counter-strike should the Jewish state strike its nuclear facilities.  It would strike Israel in "a surprising way," it said.

Israel considers Iran a clear and present danger. Officials in Jerusalem cite Tehran's nuclear program, repeated references by Iranian leaders to Israel's destruction, and Iranian support for Hizbullah and Hamas.

Iran denies allegations that it aims to produce a bomb, saying its nuclear program is meant only to produce energy for the oil-rich country. But western diplomats say they have reliable intelligence Iran has sought nuclear technology which only has military applications.

Western officials and international observers also cite Iran's repeated obstruction of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors’ attempts to access its nuclear facilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israeli diplomats have been lobbying the international community for tougher sanctions on Iran.