Iran conducted a test launch Tuesday night of the Shihab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which is capable of reaching Israel and US targets in the region, Israel Radio reported. The test came hours before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with US President George W Bush in Washington to discuss the Iranian threat.
Military officials said it was not clear if this most recent test indicated an advance in the capabilities of the Shihab 3. They said the test was likely timed to coincide with the Washington summit and with comments made by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah during celebrations in Beirut marking the 6th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
"What deters the enemy from launching an aggression is the resistance's continuous readiness to respond," Nasrallah told scores of supporters. "Northern Israel today is within the range of the resistance's rockets. The ports, bases, factories and everything is within that range."
The Shihab test was only "partly successful," according to news reports. The nature of the difficulties was not clear. The Iranians have been working to extend the Shihab 3's current maximum range of 1,300 kilometers. A year ago, they successfully tested a solid fuel motor for the missile.
In December, Israel's defense against an Iranian ballistic missile strike, the Arrow 2 missile system, succeeded in intercepting an incoming rocket simulating an Iranian Shihab 3 at an altitude higher than in the previous 13 exercises.
Maj. Elyakim, commander of the Arrow missile battery at Palmahim, told The Jerusalem Post
last month that the missile crews were always on high alert, but that they were recently instructed to "raise their level of awareness" because of developments on the Iranian front.
The Arrow missile, he said, could intercept and destroy any Iranian missile fired at Israel, including ones carrying non-conventional warheads. Experts believe that if Iran is attacked by Israel or the US, Teheran would respond by firing long-range ballistic missiles at Israel.