TEL AVIV (Dec. 23)
Israeli officials refused to comment over the weekend on reports that Israel test-fired a missile over the Mediterranean on Friday morning, which triggered a red alert among U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.
According to the reports abroad, there is some dispute over whether Israel gave the United States advance notice before it launched a Jericho-2 missile, which has a 750-mile range.
As soon as the launch was detected, a maximum alert was sounded for U.S. armed forces deployed in Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia.
Soldiers donned gas masks and anti-chemical-warfare clothing and took to bunkers and trenches.
The all-clear sounded about 10 minutes later.
The alert was called about four hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Colin Powell, arrived in Saudi Arabia to meet with soldiers.
Pentagon sources were quoted over the weekend as saying the launch “could have been a test” or it could have been an Israeli demonstration to show Iraq it has the means to retaliate against a missile attack.
According to The New York Times, an unidentified senior Pentagon official said the missile launching had been detected by American intelligence, probably by satellite surveillance.