Israel launches spy satellite as political tensions rage on the ground

Israel’s Shavit rocket launching the Ofek-13 satellite.

Israel on Wednesday will launch a new spy satellite, the first the country has sent into space in almost three years, to bolster its defense capabilities and prepare for a possible escalation with Iran.

An Israeli Shavit rocket launched the Ofek-13 satellite into space and lifted off at 7:10 p.m. ET from Palmachim Airbase on the Mediterranean coast, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The ministry confirmed that the satellite entered its intended orbit and began transmitting data after completing an initial series of inspections. Ofek-13 is yet to undergo a few more inspections before it can begin full operations “in the near future,” the Department of Defense wrote.

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Israel’s Ofek-13 satellite is the latest in a series of reconnaissance satellites, the first of which was launched in 1988. Its most recent predecessor was the Ofek-16, launched in July 2020. Israel’s Defense Ministry claims that Ofek-13 has the most advanced capabilities of the entire series with “unique radar observation capabilities and will enable intelligence gathering in all weather and visibility conditions, enhancing strategic intelligence,” said Israel State CEO Boaz Levy Aerospace Industries, in the ministry statement.

Aside from the new orbiting spy satellite, the Israel Air Force also announced plans to create its own space defense unit called the Space Administration, the Israeli Air Force said Jewish News Syndicate.

Anti-government protesters took to the streets in Beit Yanai, Israel, to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan.

Anti-government protesters took to the streets in Beit Yanai, Israel, to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan.

Israel is trying to bolster its space defense capabilities amid rising geopolitical tensions, and it’s doing so amid widespread anti-government protests rock the country. The satellite was launched just a few weeks later Iran and Saudi Arabia have restored ties with each other, with Israel already feeling threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Simultaneously, Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system. In this way, a Netanyahu-ruled Supreme Court could allow more construction work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and demand more from the Palestinians Risk of violence and eviction.

Netanyahu’s efforts to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court actually caused one unusual consequences with US President Joe Biden urging the Israeli PM to “work out a real compromise” while adding that he will not be inviting Netanyahu to the White House any time soon.

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