Israel successfully test-fired on Wednesday a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran, fanning a public debate over whether the country's leaders are agitating for a military attack on Tehran's atomic facilities, The Associated Press reported.
An Israeli defense official told The Associated Press that the military tested a "rocket propulsion system" in an exercise planned long ago. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of security restrictions, and declined to give further information.
Further information about the test was censored by the military. Foreign reports, however, said the military test-fired a long-range Jericho missile - capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran.
While Israeli leaders have long warned that a military strike was an option, the most intensive round of public discourse on the subject was ignited over the weekend by a report in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper that said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak favor an attack.
That was followed by a report in the Haaretz daily Wednesday that Netanyahu is now lobbying Cabinet members for an attack, despite the complexity of the operation and the high likelihood it would draw a deadly retaliation from Iran. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive policy discussion, said Netanyahu does not yet have a majority.
Israel considers Iran its most dangerous threat. It cites Tehran's nuclear program, its ballistic missile development, repeated references by the Iranian leader to Israel's destruction and Iran's support for anti-Israel militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
Iran denies the allegations that it aims to produce a bomb, saying its nuclear program is meant only to produce energy for the oil-rich country. It has blamed Israel for disruptions in its nuclear program, including the mysterious assassinations of a string of Iranian nuclear scientists and a computer virus that wiped out some of Iran's nuclear centrifuges.
Israel has repeatedly said that it hopes economic sanctions will persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. Israeli diplomats have been lobbying the international community for tougher sanctions.