Israel tests new missile defense system


Sending a message to both Saddam Hussein and its own people, Israel conducted an ambitious test of its anti-missile system yesterday with the simulated firing of several interceptor missiles at once at incoming rockets.

Israelis have shown growing concern that Saddam would retaliate against them if the United States attacks Iraq as he did during the 1991 Gulf War, and a successful test of the Arrow system might help allay those fears.

The Iraqi capability of hitting Israel is limited, but Israel must be “prepared for surprises, things we didn’t think about,” air force Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz told Army Radio before the test.

During the test, a single missile contrail rose from the Palmachim air base, south of Tel Aviv, over the Mediterranean Sea. Israel TV’s military correspondent said only one actual Arrow missile was launched, and then three dummy missiles were fired to test their launchers. Israel Radio reported that the test was successful, but Army Radio said the test results were still being evaluated.

Israel believes Iraq may try to attack the Jewish state with Scud missiles in response to an anticipated U.S. military campaign against Saddam. During the Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles with conventional explosive warheads at Israel, causing damage but few casualties.

Oil prices hinge on control of Iraqi oil fields


If the United States invades Iraq, there could be oil shortages and gas lines – or an oil glut and falling prices.

Much depends on whether American troops can secure Iraqi oil fields and whether other producers continue the flow of oil uninterrupted.

In the growing drumbeat over war with Iraq, the Bush administration rarely mentions oil, even though Iraq has one-tenth of the world’s oil reserves. But a military campaign almost certainly will have a major impact on world markets.

In the event of a war, Secretary of State Colin Powell said recently, “We would want to protect those fields and make sure that they’re … not destroyed or damaged by a failing regime on the way out the door.”

The growing prospect of war, combined with the monthlong political strife in Venezuela that is hamstringing that country’s oil production, has already caused unease among energy traders.

Last week, prices for crude oil to be delivered in February jumped to more than $33 a barrel, 65 percent higher than a year ago. The average price of gasoline has risen steadily to more than $1.40 a gallon.

Man steals airplane, threatens downtown


A man stole a small aircraft at gunpoint yesterday and flew it over downtown Frankfurt, circling skyscrapers and threatening to crash into the European Central Bank. He landed safely after about two hours and was arrested.

The man told a television station he wanted to call attention to Judith Resnik, a U.S. astronaut killed in the 1986 post-launch explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Military jets chased the stolen, two-seat motorized glider as the man began circling slowly above Frankfurt’s banking district.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the main railway station, two opera houses and several skyscrapers – the latter mostly empty on a Sunday afternoon at the end of the Christmas season.

Police identified the man as a 31-year-old German from Darmstadt, a city some 25 miles south of Frankfurt.

Off-course plane flies near Hawaiian homes


Federal aviation officials said a jumbo jet was slightly off-course when it approached Honolulu’s airport but not enough to substantiate claims by high-rise residents that it flew dangerously close to their building.

The China Airlines Boeing 747 was less than a mile off course Saturday morning, said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

He said the plane flew over land when its normal course to Honolulu International Airport would have kept it over the ocean, but would not speculate why.

There was no immediate response to calls seeking comment from the airline’s office at the airport. A recording said Flight 18 from Taiwan and Tokyo lands at the airport at 7:05 a.m. Saturdays.

China’s unmanned space capsule returns


An unmanned Chinese space capsule returned safely to Earth yesterday, state media said, laying the groundwork for China to attempt later this year to send an astronaut into space.

A successful manned flight would make China only the third country, after Russia and the United States, able to send its own astronauts into space.

The Shenzhou IV capsule landed as planned just after 7:00 p.m. on China’s northern grasslands in the Inner Mongolia region, the official Xinhua News Agency and state television said.

“Experts in charge of China’s manned space program said the return of the spaceship represents a complete success of the fourth test flight of the program,” Xinhua said.

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