The successful launch of Israel's newest spy satellite is a "huge achievement" and shows Israel can only count on itself to when it comes to defending the Jewish state, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says.
"This is a huge achievement for the defense establishment, defense industries, and the State of Israel," Mofaz said. "The satellite will enhance the ability to gather high-quality intelligence far away from the country's borders."
"The State of Israel again proved that it counts first and foremost on itself in defending its citizens and acts at all times to improve capabilities and develop advanced systems to address the threats around us," he said. "The ability to provide security depends not only on the persistence and determinate of security forces, but also on directing resources to research and development projects."
Israel was launching a satellite to spy on Iran's nuclear program, an Israeli defense official said earlier, as Iran's leader persisted with his calls for the Jewish state's destruction. A TV report said the launch was successful, but it would be some time before it could be determined if the satellite was operational. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, meanwhile, said Iran has already funneled USD 10 million to Palestinian terror groups since the start of the year, according to a newspaper report Tuesday.
Israel has for years regarded Iran as the primary threat to its survival, disputing Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made this threat more tangible by repeatedly questioning Israel's right to exist, most recently on Monday, when he said Israel was a "fake regime" that "cannot logically continue to live."
Later Tuesday, Israel planned to launch from Siberia its Eros B satellite, designed to spot images on the ground as small as 70 centimeters (27.5 inches), the defense official said. That level of resolution would allow Israel to gather information on Iran's nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, he said.
Israel's Channel 10 TV reported that the launch was successful, but the satellite would not deploy its power panels for another day and a half.
"The most important thing in a satellite is its ability to photograph and its resolution," He said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive subject matter.
"This satellite has very high resolution, and (state-run) Israel Aircraft Industries has a great ability to process information that is relayed." If the launch is successful, it will take seven to 10 days to see whether the images that are transmitted are sharp and clear, he said.