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Google Street View launches in Israel

Israel became the first Middle Eastern country to offer the popular Google Street View service on Sunday, following months of discussions with Israeli security officials.

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A man rides a bicycle with a camel effigy on Jerusalem's Jaffa street on May 26, 2011 during a street entertainment activity. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Google launched its popular Street View service in Israel on Sunday following months of discussions with Israeli security officials.

The Jewish state has become the first Middle Eastern country to offer the service, the Associated Press reports.

Street View, which became available in 2006, lets web users view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps and “walk” down streets virtually in cities and towns around the world.

The service in Israel is currently available mainly in the country’s three main cities (Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem), but major sites in other cities can also be viewed, according to Ynetnews.com.

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Israel had initially raised concerns that images of its streets could be used by terrorists, but last August its justice ministry authorized Google to start snapping the streets, the Agence France Presse reports.

Google vehicles kitted out with cameras have been driving up and down Israel’s streets since September.

As part of the deal reached between Google and Israel, users will be able to ask for “additional blurring of themselves, their home or their car,” while areas around several sensitive sites, like the army headquarters in Tel Aviv, are blurred.

In a statement, the Internet giant said that the imagery of “Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa includes sites of interest such as the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, Mount of Olives, old port of Jaffa, the Bahá’í Gardens.”

More from GlobalPost: Despite security concerns, Israel approves Google Street View 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120422/google-street-view-launches-israel