Israel tested a U.S.-backed missile system in the Mediterranean on Tuesday (September 3) but did not announce the launch in advance, prompting a disclosure by Russia that kept the world on edge as the United States weighed an attack on Syria.

The morning launch was first reported by Moscow media that quoted Russian defence officials as saying two ballistic "objects" had been fired eastward from the centre of the sea - roughly in the direction of Syria.

The Sparrow, which simulates the long-range missiles of Syria and Iran, is used for target practice by Israel's U.S.-backed ballistic shield Arrow.

The news ruffled financial markets until Israel's Defence Ministry said that it, along with a Pentagon team, had carried out a test-launch of a Sparrow missile.

Arrow designer Uzi Rabin said tests of the anti-missile system are planned "long, long in advance" and generally go unnoticed, and what apparently made the difference today is the high state of tension over Syria and Russia's unusual vigilance.

Western naval forces have been gathering in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea since President Bashar al-Assad was accused of carrying out an August 21 gas attack in his more than two-year-old conflict with rebels trying to topple him.

Presented by Adam Justice

Read more: