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Monday, 19 February, 2001, 11:46 GMT
Israel begins missile tests
Israeli Patriots near Tel Aviv
The Patriot exercises were apparently planned last year
Israel and the United States are holding joint military exercises, three days after US-British airstrikes near the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The five-day exercises in the Israeli desert will launch Patriot missiles against a simulated attack from Iraqi Scud missiles.

The Israeli military insists the tests had been planned for some time and had no connection with Friday's raids on Iraqi targets.

Gaza demonstration
There have been widespread protests in Arab countries against the air raids

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has recently threatened to bomb Israel daily for six months to support the Palestinians.

The BBC correspondent in Baghdad, Barbara Plett, says the military exercises will add to the atmosphere of tension in the region.

There have been widespread protests in Arab countries against the air raids, and calls for retaliatory action.

Scud attacks

In the Gaza Strip, about 1,000 people demonstrated in support of the Iraqi president.

Washington sent Patriot missiles to Israel during the Gulf War, but they failed to halt most of the 39 Iraqi Scud missiles fired at Israel.

Most of them damaged neighbourhoods in and around Tel Aviv.

"Saddam, we wait for your rockets to hit Tel Aviv," the crowd shouted.

An Israeli army spokesman said the joint manoeuvres, which started on Monday, had been planned for more than a year.

He said they were part of routine US-Israel procedure to ensure the two countries' air defence systems were compatible.

The USS Porter, a US navy ship with advanced radar capability, is lying off the Israeli coast and will take part in the exercises.

Israel's caretaker Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, met security officials on Sunday to discuss developments in Iraq.

His office said in a statement that Israel would keep a close eye on the situation but there was "no need to talke any sort of special measures".

Officials have assured Israelis they have nothing to fear from Iraq following the strikes.

"Israel was not involved at all with the American-British operation, so therefore we have nothing to be worried about," an army spokesman said.

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17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Little support for Iraq attack
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraqi press calls for revenge
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