Israel marked the 30th anniversary of its first satellite launch by releasing once classified footage of the event and declassifying images of Bashar Assad’s palace in Syria taken by its newest satellite.
Israel became the 8th country in the world to launch an object into space at 11:32 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1988 at Palmahim Airbase. The Ofrek 1–also called Horizon 1–was a simple, solar-powered satellite that could measure the magnetic fields and other environmental readings in space. Israel’s first spy satellites were launched in 1995.
“Within a short period of time, we built a purely ‘blue and white’ space industry with outstanding capabilities and achievements,” said retired Brigadier General Ammon Harai, head of Space Programs, directorate of Defense R&D and Israel Ministry of Defense. “Under a heavy veil of secrecy, Israel developed unique satellite capabilities in order to preserve its qualitative edge and intelligence superiority in the region.”
Videos of the launch were classified for decades because the country wanted to keep its rocket program under wraps. The footage was released by the Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries Monday.
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Israel also released footage of the Ofek 11 satellite launch from 2 years ago and some recent spy images. In addition to Assad’s palace, the spy photos include tanks on a Syrian military base and the Damascus airport.
Israel has conducted 200 air raids over Syria since 2017 and the release of satellite images could reinforce that show of strength over Assad’s regime. One recent attack at the Damascus airport targeted an aircraft delivering weapons to pro-regime forces, though Israel didn’t claim responsibility for the attack.
“Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “Our red lines are as sharp as ever and our determinations to enforce them is stronger than ever.”
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Boaz Levy, vice president of Isarel Aerospace Industries, credited the spy satellite program for providing “amazing quality images for the security of the State of Israel” and for being a “major engine and technological catalyst” for the country.