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OPINION

Israelis Test-Fire Ballistic Missile

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Israel test-fired a ballistic missile Wednesday, Israel Radio said, amid a heightened public debate over the possibility of an Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear program.

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"Israel today carried out the test-firing of a rocket propulsion system from the Palmachim base" in central Israel, a Defense Ministry statement said. "This had been planned by the defense establishment a long time ago and has been carried out as scheduled."

A Defense Ministry official declined to comment on the type of rocket tested. But Israel Radio's military affairs correspondent, who is regularly briefed by top officers on defense matters, said a ballistic missile was launched.

Israel, considered to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, successfully test-fired a two-stage, long-range ballistic missile in 2008.

It is widely believed to have Jericho missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, civilian Shavit rockets used to launch satellites and the Arrow missile interceptor.

The launch coincided with mounting speculation in Israel that its leaders could be preparing a military attack on Iran to curb a nuclear program they say is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.

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The public debate was sparked at the weekend when a newspaper commentator suggested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have decided, without seeking wider Cabinet approval, to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

In a policy speech opening the Knesset's winter session Monday, Netanyahu again voiced his view that a nuclear Iran would pose a serious threat to Israel and to the world.

But he stopped short of making any direct threat of Israeli military action. Israel has said repeatedly that all options are on the table in trying to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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