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Israel launches new spy satellite

Israel's Defence Ministry says it has launched a new observation satellite into orbit which is expected to be used to observe Iran and hostile militant groups in the Middle East.

According to the announcement, the Israeli-made Ofek 10 satellite was launched in co-operation with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.

The satellite has already begun transmitting data and visual material. It is expected to be fully operational within months.

Israel is expected to use the satellite to keep tabs on Iran and the wider region. It believes Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon - a charge Iran denies - and accuses it of arming militants across the region.

The Ofek 10 is the latest in a line of spy satellites built by Israel Aerospace Industries for the government.

It is a lightweight satellite that is expected to improve Israel's reconnaissance abilities by providing sharp images at any time of day, and in any weather condition, said Ofer Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.

"The Ofek 10 satellite should improve Israel's intelligence capability and allow the defence establishment to better deal with threats near and far," said defence minister Moshe Yaalon.

"We are continuing to strengthen our tremendous qualitative and technological advantage over our neighbours."

The satellite has the capability to direct its imaging radar on a specific target, unlike other satellites which perform a general sweep of territory.

"It has an incredible imaging capability.. .to give very precise photos," said Mr Doron.

Unlike other countries which launch satellites eastward in the direction of the Earth's orbit, Israel launched the satellite westward, opposite the orbit, to prevent debris following the launch landing in hostile countries east of Israel, he said.

The satellite completes a full orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes.

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