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Israel launches spy satellite: defence ministry

by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) June 22, 2010
Israel on Tuesday launched a spy satellite from a base in the south of the country, the defence ministry said, with the device reportedly capable of monitoring arch-foe Iran.

"A few minutes ago the State of Israel launched the Ofek-9 (Horizon-9) satellite from the Palmachim base," the ministry said. "The results of the launch are being examined by the technical team."

It gave no details on the satellite, but public radio said it, like its predecessors in the Ofek series, were cable of taking high resolution pictures and aimed at monitoring Iran's nuclear programme.

The radio said the satellite was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries and launched on a Shavit rocket.

Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by the Islamic republic's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state's demise.

Along with the West, it suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of its nuclear programme, a claim Tehran denies.

With the launch of Ofek-9, Israel has six spy satellites in space.

An attempt to launch an Ofek-6 in 2004 failed with the satellite crashing into the Mediterranean Sea after a technical malfunction with the launcher.

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