Iran is crying foul after Israeli's Defense Ministry confirmed a major test of a mystery new "rocket propulsion system" on Friday morning.
“The defense establishment conducted a launch test a few minutes ago of a rocket propulsion system from a base in the center of the country,” the ministry said. “The test was scheduled in advance and was carried out as planned.”
Giving no further details, international reports were rife with speculation over the nature of the rocket, with many saying it was a nuclear-capable ballistic missile. This was enough for Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to go off, saying in a statement posted to Titter: “Israel today tested a nuke-missile, aimed at Iran.”
Israel today tested a nuke-missile, aimed at Iran.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 6, 2019
E3 & US never complain about the only nuclear arsenal in West Asia—armed with missiles actually DESIGNED to be capable of carrying nukes—but has fits of apoplexy over our conventional & defensive ones. https://t.co/r4EqXkhcCN
And he further complained that the West looks the other way when it comes to “about the only nuclear arsenal in West Asia,” but that it “has fits of apoplexy over our conventional defensive [rockets].”
The mystery Israeli test was significant enough to require the temporary diversion of all inbound flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.
Israeli media publications also considered the possibility that it was a ballistic missile test, likely nuclear warhead capable surface-to-surface Jericho system, an intercontinental ballistic missile which according to foreign reports can support a nuclear payload.
It comes at a tense time in the region following Israeli airstrikes on Syria and even Iraq, against what the IDF alleges were 'Iranian targets'. According to the Times of Israel:
Israel does not publicly acknowledge having ballistic missiles in its arsenals, though according to foreign reports, the Jewish state possesses a nuclear-capable variety known as the Jericho that has a multi-stage engine, a 5,000-kilometer range and is capable of carrying a 1,000-kilogram warhead.
And according to a Avi Scharf, the editor of the English version of Haaretz newspaper, the missile test may have had a flight trajectory deep into the Mediterranean, as far West as past the island of Crete.
To track and handle it all, IAI telemetry plane + at least two Israeli AF g550 aewc/shavit spyplanes + hercs flew all the way out past Crete pic.twitter.com/s9VyBQLVKJ— avi scharf (@avischarf) December 6, 2019
Tehran officials, while complaining about the provocative rocket test which they claimed was an ICBM, vowed they are still “determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles.”
Israeli residents captured part of the rare launch on video:
#Israel #IDF a effectué un essai du système de propulsion de missiles depuis la base aérienne de Palmachim, au sud de #TelAviv, en ce matin du 6 décembre 2019.— Rebecca Rambar (@RebeccaRambar) December 6, 2019
Le test a été pré-planifié et réalisé comme prévu.#Tsahal pic.twitter.com/TFOg8PPAIc
Washington has repeatedly condemned similar Iranian launches, even while the program is not formally banned under the 2015 JCPOA, and has leveled sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic's ability to produce advanced missiles.