Occupied Palestine (In Palestine Today)- Palestine’s ministry of foreign affairs has announced that it has found Pegasus spyware developed by NSO, the Israeli spyware company, on the phones of three senior officials.
The statement came as NSO’s chief executive Itzik Benbenisti, who had only been in the job for two weeks, resigned from his role on Thursday.
Sources said Benbenisti quit after the US commerce department announced it was blacklisting the company for harming “national security interests”.
The Palestinian rights group Al-Haq had previously reported that some foreign ministry employees had also been hacked, but the Palestinian Authority had not officially commented until Wednesday.
“We always expected that our telephones were infiltrated by the occupation authorities and that all we said and sent was listened to and monitored,” the ministry of foreign affairs said in its statement.
“But now, we have evidence and legal documents that acknowledge the existence of this Israeli intrusion.”
The announcement by the ministry of foreign affairs marks the first time Palestinian officials have accused Israel of using Pegasus to spy on them.
The statement said the ministry was preparing a legal file over the matter to be brought before relevant international bodies, including the International Criminal Court.
Global surveillance scandal
On Monday, Front Line Defenders (FDL) reported that it had found that the phones of Palestinians working for human rights organisations recently designated by Israel as “terrorist organisations” were hacked using Pegasus, spyware which is at the heart of a global surveillance scandal.
The Dublin-based rights group examined 75 phones belonging to Palestinian human rights workers and detected that six were infected with Pegasus spyware between July 2020 and April 2021.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International, Forbidden Stories and a group of international media organisations found that Pegasus had been used in hacks of smartphones belonging to journalists, officials, human rights activists and political leaders.
The investigative group said it had acquired a list of 50,000 phone numbers that appeared to be targets identified by NSO’s clients to be spied upon using Pegasus.
The numbers of French President Emmanuel Macron, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, Iraqi President Barham Salih and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan were among the apparent targets.
Source: Middle East Eye