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Iran unveils new ballistic missile

A handout picture provided by Iran's Defence Ministry shows the testing of the fourth generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile, named Khaibar
— Tehran (AFP)

Iran's defence ministry on Thursday unveiled a new ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) and a capacity to carry warheads weighing over a tonne.

The Kheibar missile -- the latest version of the Khorramshahr which is Iran's longest-range missile to date -- was unveiled alongside a replica of the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem, in a live broadcast on state television.

Iran's Defence Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani said the missile was unveiled as part of moves to "provide comprehensive support to our friends and countries that are on the path of fighting against the domination system".

State news agency IRNA said the Kheibar is "a liquid fuel missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres and a 1,500 kilogrammes warhead".

Its name references the ancient town of Khaybar -- located in modern-day Saudi Arabia -- known for a decisive seventh-century battle in which the army of Prophet Mohammed defeated its thousands of Jewish residents.

According to state media, the speed of the high-mobility tactical missile "can reach Mach 16 outside the atmosphere and Mach 8 inside the atmosphere".

The unveiling comes amid heightened tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and just over 10 days into a fragile Gaza ceasefire that ended five days of cross border conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

Days after the Khorramshahr was unveiled in 2017, then US president Donald Trump issued a stark warning at Tehran, casting growing uncertainty over whether a nuclear deal clinched with Iran would survive.

The 2015 deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, gave Iran relief from international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

But the deal collapsed in 2018 after the United States unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to suspend the implementation of its own commitments to curb nuclear activity including uranium enrichment.

In January 2020, Iran launched a missile attack on US forces at the Ain al-Assad military base in Iraq's Anbar province, days after a US drone strike at Baghdad airport killed revered Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.