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Israel launches new spy satellite to ‘monitor Iran’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Israel’s Defense Ministry has announced the successful launch of a new spy satellite that the ministry said would provide high-quality surveillance for its military intelligence.

Israel has been building up its surveillance capabilities to monitor enemies such as Iran, whose nuclear program Israel sees as a major threat to its security.

The Defense Ministry said the Ofek-16 satellite was launched at 4 a.m. on July 6 from central Israel by a locally developed Shavit rocket. It described the Ofek as an “electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities.”

The first images from the satellite are expected in about a week.

“We will continue to strengthen and maintain Israel’s capabilities on every front, in every place,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.

Israel’s network of satellites allows the country to watch the entire Middle East, including Iran.

‘Iranian Nuclear Threat’

Gantz said that “technological superiority and intelligence capabilities are essential to the security of the state of Israel.”

He didn’t give further details on the satellite’s mission, but Israeli public radio said it would be used to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi confirmed on July 6 Israel is taking action to stop the Iranian nuclear threat.

Ashkenazi made the comment in response to a question about a series of mysterious incidents at Iranian facilities, including at Natanz, the Islamic republic’s main uranium-enrichment center.

“We have a long-term policy over the course of many administrations not to allow Iran to have nuclear abilities,” The Jerusalem Post quoted the minister as saying at a conference.

“We take actions that are better left unsaid,” he said.

Iran denies its nuclear program has any military dimension.

The main contractor for the Ofek-16 project was the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, while the satellite’s payload was developed by defense firm Elbit Systems.