Gold prices were jumping past $700 Thursday as buyers were enticed into precious metals amid news that Syria had fired surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft.

Benchmark contracts for gold bullion were gaining $11.30 at $702 an ounce in recent New York futures market action.

"Certainly safe-haven buying is coming back into the marketplace," says James Moore, an analyst at

TheBullionDesk.com

in London. "One of gold's traditional roles is a safe-haven asset in times of war."

In addition to concerns that the Middle East spat may flare into a larger conflict between the two nations, investors remain anxious that the problem with rising mortgage defaults has further to run. That, says Moore, is boosting demand for gold.

A positive tilt to the charts was contributing even more to the bullish mix as key technical resistance was breached at around $693.

Silver prices followed gold higher, tacking on 17 cents at $12.53 an ounce. Copper was up 1 cent to $3.28 a pound.

The exchange-traded funds that track the prices of metals were moving roughly in line with the futures market. The

streetTracks Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

was up about 1%, while the

iShares Silver Trust

(SLV) - Get Report

was higher by 0.8%. The

PowerShares DB Base Metals

(DBB) - Get Report

was barely changed.

Elsewhere in the metals complex, shares of

Rio Tinto

( RTP) were rising almost 5% on trading desk rumors that the firm might be acquired in a joint effort by Brazil's

Companhia Vale do Rio Doce

(RIO) - Get Report

and Australia's

BHP

(BHP) - Get Report

.

Shares of BHP and CVRD were up 2.2% and 1%, respectively.

Among ratings actions, Bernstein upgraded base metals miner

Anglo American

( AAUK) to market perform from underperform.

RBC Capital Markets trimmed back its price target on shares of uranium miner

Cameco

(CCJ) - Get Report

to $63 from $70, but maintained a "top pick" rating. The shares were recently trading at about $41, up marginally.

As for the agricultural sector, wheat prices were pulling back, off 1.8% at $8.20 a bushel after having hit record highs Wednesday. Soybean prices were slipping 0.9% at $8.95 a bushel.