The United States and Israel moved closer to military action against Syria on Monday with what Israel called a “successful” joint missile test in the Mediterranean Sea. Combined with combative comments by Syrian strongman Bashar Assad calling President Barack Obama “weak,” the developments brought international tensions over the country’s civil war to new heights, even as Obama seeks what could be slow-coming congressional approval for a military strike.
Russian radar initially detected the two “ballistic objects” fired from the central Mediterranean towards the eastern part of the sea, the Associated Press reports. Israel’s Defense Ministry later confirmed the test. The test came just hours after Assad, whose government is accused of using chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds of civilians last month, taunted Obama in an interview.
“If Obama was strong, he would have said publicly: ‘We have no evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian state.’ He would have said publicly: ‘The only way to proceed is through U.N. investigations. We therefore refer everything to the Security Council,’” Assad told the French publication Le Figaro on Monday, in remarks translated by The Telegraph. “But Obama is weak because he is facing pressure from within the United States.”
The United States currently has warships in the Mediterranean Sea as Obama awaits congressional approval for a strike. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry are set to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
The three-year civil war has already claimed over 100,000 lives.