JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has launched its latest military spy satellite, boosting its intelligence-gathering capabilities in the face of Iran’s nuclear program, a cabinet minister said on Wednesday.
The Ofek 9 was blasted into orbit by an Israeli-made rocket on Tuesday from the Palmachim air base south of Tel Aviv, joining three other Israeli spy satellites in space.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio: “Israel’s boosting of its intelligence capabilities is directed … to a large extent toward the threat posed by Iran, first and foremost the nuclear threat.”
Brigadier-General Nimrod Sheffer, deputy chief of the air force, said preliminary data had been received from Ofek 9 and it would transmit its first picture within days.
Along with the West, Israel believes Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are aimed at producing nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.
Israel supports international efforts to reach a diplomatic agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program, but along with Washington, it has not ruled out a military option. Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power.