Defense Ministry releases satellite images of strategic sites in Syria

Israel’s Defense Ministry released satellite pictures on Monday of strategic sites in Syria, including the Presidential Palace and Damascus International Airport in what could be seen as a tactic threat to its northern neighbor.

The satellite images included a very clear and detailed image of Presidential Palace in Damascus, a Syrian regime military site with a number of tanks visible, as well as Damascus International Airport, which, according to foreign reports was struck by a launched by the IDF on Saturday night.

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The images were taken by Israel’s Ofek 11, which was launched in September 2016. Described by officials as the country’s most sophisticated spy satellite, it believed to be used to keep tabs on Iran and other regional adversaries.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it would work to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria. In early September, Israel announced that it had carried out more than 200 air strikes in the past year and a half against Iranian targets in Syria, mainly targeted at advanced weapons systems and infrastructure belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Monday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that 113 Iranian and Shi’ite militia members have been killed in the past two months in Israeli strikes on Syria.

The images were released by Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries to mark 30 years since the launch of .

With the launch of Ofek 1 from Palmahim Airbase in central Israel on September 19, 1988 at 11:32 a.m., the Jewish state became the eighth country in the world to launch an object into orbit.

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“Within a short period of time, we built a purely ‘blue-and-white’ space industry with outstanding capabilities and achievements. Only few nations across the world can boast comparable accomplishments,” said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Harari, head of space programs, directorate of defense R&D, for the Defense Ministry.

Built primarily for communication transmission tests, it proved Israel’s independent capabilities in space, read a statement released by the Defense Ministry.

“Under a heavy veil of secrecy, Israel developed unique satellite capabilities in order to preserve its qualitative edge and intelligence superiority in the region,” the ministry said.

Israel’s defense establishment has gleaned intelligence from dozens of its predecessors – an estimated 64,000 minutes of footage each year.

Crediting the necessity to develop small, lightweight satellites due to Israel’s geographical location, the country’s space program not only “[provides] amazing quality images for the security of the State of Israel,” but is a “major engine and technological catalyst” for the economy, said Boaz Levy, IAI’s vice president and director of the missile and space division.

“Thanks to an organized program in the field of observation satellites, under the direction of the Ministry of Defense, and together with the best minds of the State of Israel, we are succeeding time and again in achieving exceptional technological achievements,” he was quoted as saying.

According to Harari, in the 30 years since the launch of Ofek 1, Israel has sent 24 satellites – communications satellites, observation satellites, nano-satellites – into space. In addition to the security component of Israel’s space industry, the satellites have played an important role in the economy, the technological and scientific education, to small and start-up companies, and more.

“This is not a one-time feat, but a strategic national endeavor,” Harari said. “Israel’s independent satellite capabilities provide it with a significant edge in addressing the various threats. The quality of the images generated by the different satellites is excellent, and they provide us with invaluable intelligence information, proving that the sky is not the limit.”

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