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Mystery Israeli satellite telly disruption blamed on UN

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The truth of the raid will probably not be known for some time. What is known is that shortly thereafter, large numbers of subscribers to Israel's Yes satellite TV service became unable to get a signal, and they still can't. Yes says it will be out of business in a month if the disruption persists as its customers turn elsewhere - not to mention mounting a class-action lawsuit - and the embattled broadcaster has turned to the Israeli military for an explanation.

The TV satellites themselves have been checked out as fully serviceable, and it appears that the interference is typically strongest in northern Israel, in the general direction of Lebanon and Syria.

Three main theories are currently circulating. First, that a new Israeli defensive radar or some such - deployed, perhaps, to forestall any Syrian retribution - is responsible, although the Israeli government denies this.

Secondly, some have speculated that the Russians, angered by being humiliated during the air raid, are pushing out annoyance signals in the region - perhaps from "spy trawler" intel-gathering vessels at sea, though such ships normally operate strictly in listening mode.

Another possible culprit, now perhaps moving to the front, is the taskforce of UN warships deployed off the southern Lebanese coast.

Israeli defence officials have now said specifically that the TV interference is coming from Dutch warships operating there with the UN, and that it previously came from German ships - which desisted after a polite request to the German military attache in Tel Aviv.

According to the Israeli press reports, the naughty radar is specifically an "army radar", not a naval one - unless that's a translation error - and is used by both the German and Dutch armies. Such a radar system does exist, fitted to the Gepard air-defence vehicle, and it operates occasionally in the Ku band - just like the Amos satellites used by Yes. It might conceivably have been sent to sea in order to beef up the warships' air defences in some way, and then been turned on following a heightened threat assessment in the wake of the Israeli attack.

It might be that the Israeli journos meant "military" rather than "army", and in fact the new APAR high-powered naval air-defence radars are responsible. This looks likelier, as they put out a lot more juice - but on the other hand, they aren't supposed to operate on satcomms frequencies.

Or - god knows - it could be something else altogether. Probably not marauding extraterrestrials, though. There are enough spookery stations, spy planes, electronic warfare platforms, and other assorted bits and bobs bleeping away around there at the moment to account for almost anything.

That said, the UN ships are only there as a result of the prolonged and unhappy Israeli incursion into Lebanon last year; so in fact the ruined satellite TV signals could be said to be something to do with an invasion after all.®

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