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Monday, June 11, 2007

Israel launches new spy satellite

JERUSALEM, June 11 (Reuters) Israel is also monitoring neighbouring Syria for signs of a military build-up following last year's war against the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group, an ally of Damascus.) - Israel launched a new spy satellite on Monday and said it would provide high-quality surveillance over enemies such as Syria and Iran, rivalling the capabilities of the United States. Rocketed into orbit from a coastal Israeli air base, the Ofek 7 was expected to begin relaying high-resolution ground photographs from an altitude of 200-500 km (125-315 miles) by the end of the week. "The successful launch adds an important layer to Israel's defence capabilities and it is a testament to Israel's technological strength," Defence Minister Amir Peretz said in a statement. Haim Eshed, head of the Defence Ministry's space directorate, told Army Radio that Ofek 7 would help Israel "deal with the Iranian issue". Iran's nuclear programme has raised fears in the West, though Tehran denies it wants nuclear bombs. The Ofek 7 was produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) under pressure to replace the Ofek 6, which was lost in a 2004 launch malfunction. The previous satellite in the series, Ofek 5, has been in orbit since 2002 and will soon be out of commission. Isaac Ben-Israel, director of the Israel Space Agency, said Ofek 7 combined compactness -- at 300 kg (660 lb) -- with advanced cameras that can photograph objects "just a few centimetres in size". "It is the only satellite in the world with this kind of weight and performance. This standard is only available on the heavy American satellites," Ben-Israel told Army Radio.

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