Israel tests nuclear-capable missile

A picture taken near Israel coastal Palmachim military base shows the launching of a rocket-propulsion system on November 2, 2011 (AFP Photo / Ilan Assayag)
Israel’s military has test-fired a missile which is reportedly capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to any part of the Middle East and probably as far as Europe. It comes amid speculation that Tel Aviv is planning a military strike on Iran.

­The test on Wednesday was reported with little detail by Israel’s Defense Ministry.

“Israel today carried out the test-firing of a rocket propulsion system from the Palmachim base,” a ministerial statement said. “This had been long-planned by the defense establishment and was carried out as scheduled.”

The plume left by the missile went almost straight upwards and could be seen from most parts of central Israel, reports Reuters citing eyewitness accounts.

Both local and international media believe that the missile tested was the long-range ballistic missile Jericho III. The specifications of the weapon are classified, but estimates by military experts believe it to be a three-stage solid propellant missile with a payload of more than 1,000 kilograms, which is enough to carry a nuclear warhead. It may have range of more than 11,000 kilometers and could carry a payload MIRVed warheads of smaller yield.

The news comes amid a flurry of media reports in Israel, which say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet are contemplating an attack on Iran. The reports have not been officially commented on. Some analysts believe that the government is playing a strongman card to appeal to voters after Israel’s failure to prevent Palestine’s admission to UNESCO.

Israel and its allies are calling to put pressure on Iran over its alleged intention to produce a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the allegations. In the past Israeli air forces have attacked sites which were believe to be nuclear facilities, in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007.

The Jewish State itself has neither confirmed nor denied having a nuclear arsenal, but is widely believed to have such weapons in its possession.