Israel: Syria Test-Fires Scud Missiles

Syria test-fired three Scud missiles (search) late last week, reinforcing Israeli worries about Damascus' ability to deliver a missile-borne chemical attack against Israeli civilian targets, Israeli military officials said Friday.

The Israeli military said one of the missiles broke up over Turkey. The Turkish military said apparent missile debris from Syria (search) landed in two agricultural villages in the southern province of Hatay, causing no injuries or damage. It provided no information about the types of missile fired.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said Syria has assured Turkey the incident was "just an accident" that occurred during routine military training.

Israeli security officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is so delicate, said it was Syria's first missile test since 2001. They said they saw the launchings as a Syrian gesture of defiance to the United States and the United Nations, which pushed Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (search), who favored the pullout.

The tests were timed just days before Lebanon holds its first elections since the withdrawal.

Israel — which captured the Golan Heights (search) from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war — is particularly concerned about Syria's missile program, where Damascus is focusing its efforts against Israel's air superiority.

The Israeli security sources said the missiles Syria launched last week included one older Scud B rocket, with a range of about 185 miles, and two Scud D's, with a range of about 435 miles. All three missiles were launched from northern Syria, near Minakh, north of Aleppo.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry official said relations between the two neighbors were good and have been steadily improving. He pointed to a series of recent high-level visits between the two countries, including mutual visits by the countries' presidents.

But the Israeli security officials said this was the first time Syria had fired a missile over another country — one that is a member of NATO. Damascus easily could have moved its mobile launchers to the center of the country to avoid flight over Turkey altogether, they said.