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Israel just flipped the space bird to Iran

Early on Monday morning, Israel flipped a space bird to Iran. Sending yet another advanced spy satellite into orbit as Tehran struggles with a number of explosions targeting its missile and nuclear program as well as a huge economic crisis.

Not many were watching as Israel’s Ofek 16 was launched at 4 a.m. from the Palmahim Airbase in the center of the country. Launches aren’t announced and the coronavirus made it so that not many people were in the control room either.

But once the launch made headlines, there was one audience a few thousand kilometers to the East that likely did not take the news well.

Ofek 16, described by Israel’s Defense Ministry as an “electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities” and once operational will likely be used to monitor Iran’s ballistic and nuclear activity by troops from the IDF’s 9900 Intelligence Unit.

The head of the Space and Satellite Administration in the Ministry of Defense, Amnon Harari told reporters Monday morning that the earth observing satellite will be “used to monitor threats facing the State of Israel that are sometimes far away and immediate so they require constant monitoring.”

The Ofek 16 joins a fleet of other spy satellites launched independently by the Jewish State since 1988, a technological feat on its own. A few hours after it was launched, it was already sending data back to earth and is expected to send its first pictures back next week.

While it is unclear the exact number of satellites Israel has launched into what used to be the “final frontier,” Harari hinted that they give the Jewish State almost constant coverage of enemy territory.

“You can assume that once you have more than one satellite in parallel in the sky, you achieve better visit times over the targets of interest.”

Despite Iran being a formidable enemy, Israel has shown that it is capable of penetrating into sensitive locations deep behind enemy lines, and a number of explosions over the last week, including one which led to a large fire at Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear site, has Tehran on edge.

Iran has admitted that the fire caused “considerable” damage to the centrifuge assembly facility, damaging or destroying key components needed to enrich uranium. While at first the fire was thought to have been caused by a cyberattack, Iran later blamed it on an explosive device having been brought into the center.

Though Israel has stayed relatively mum on the issue, as it usually does regarding possible operational activity away from its border, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel “takes actions that are better left unsaid” to prevent Iran from having nuclear abilities.

Now, the launch of the latest spy satellite was obviously not planned to take place shortly after a wave of mysterious explosions in Iran. But in life, coincidence is a funny thing. Especially in the world of military reconnaissance.

Header: Israel successfully launches Ofek 16 spy satellite into space – photo credit: Israel Defense Ministry

Original: Anna Ahronheim – JPost