A general view of the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 180 miles south of Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2007. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Amid Reports of Involvement in Mysterious Iranian Explosions, Israel Launches Spy Satellite With ‘Advanced Capabilities’

Israel launched the Ofek 16 reconnaissance satellite early Monday morning, adding a seventh satellite to its growing space force. According to Defense officials, some initial signals have already been received from the satellite, and it seems to be functioning properly. “‘Ofek 16’ is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities,” read a statement released by the Israel Defense Ministry. While the project was led and overseen by the government, a handful of private and civilian companies were involved in the design, engineering, and assembly of the satellite and its components. Since launching its first satellite in 1988 – and becoming just the eighth country to achieve the feat – Israel has launched more than 20 civilian and military satellites into space. It is believed that the new addition will enable Israel to enhance its surveillance and monitoring of any advancements made in the Iranian nuclear program. On Monday, The New York Times reported that Middle Eastern intelligence officials believed last week’s explosion in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility was a result of an Israeli attack. The explosion and subsequent fire, which occurred on Thursday and was one of several such incidents to break out in Iran over the past two weeks, reportedly caused severe damage to the site’s centrifuge assembly workshop. Iranian government officials said they have identified the sources behind the attack, but refused to reveal them, although The Times quoted an anonymous intelligence officer as saying that a bomb planted by Israel caused the damage at Natanz.

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