Pegasus spyware used against six Palestinian activists, including French lawyer

the essential Israeli spyware is again blamed, this time by Palestinian NGOs

The Pegasus saga moved to the Palestinian Territories on Monday, November 8, with revelations that Israeli company NSO spyware was used to track down the phones of six Palestinian activists, one of whom also has French nationality.

On 22 October, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced that it had placed six Palestinian NGOs, including al-Haq, Addameer and Bisan, on its list of “terrorist groups” in because of supposed links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist organization considered “terrorist” by the Jewish state, the United States and the European Union. Suspecting a possible hacking of the phone of one of its employees, the human rights organization al-Haq mandated the European group Frontline Defenders to investigate the cellphones of 75 members of these six NGOs to see if they had been infected with the Pegasus software.

On Monday, Frontline Defenders concluded, after cross-checking with the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto and the digital cell of Amnesty International, that six laptops had been infected by the software. Among these six, those of Salah Hamouri, a Franco-Palestinian lawyer working for the NGO Addameer whose permanent resident status in Jerusalem was withdrawn by Israel in mid-October, paving the way for his deportation, and of the American-Palestinian Ubai al-Aboudi, director of Bisan.

Amnesty confirmed information from Frontline Defenders, stating that smartphones had been hacked “before” NGOs were designated “terrorists” by Israel. International and Israeli NGOs have deplored this designation, which could have the effect of drying up the funding of these NGOs, some of which work for the defense of human rights and prisoners and receive European funds.

“Fear”

“I felt that there was something wrong, that there was something suspicious in my phone (…) Frontline Defenders discovered that between the 10 and on 30 April my phone was attacked by Pegasus, ”Salah Hamouri, who lives in Ramallah, told AFP. Occupied West Bank. “When the Pegasus system is in the phone, it is totally monitored … The phone is no longer yours,” he added, calling on France “to take responsibility” in this matter, especially that he himself had been in contact “with people at the Quai d’Orsay, at the Elysée Palace, with the Consul General of France in Jerusalem” and with journalists.

Ubai al-Aboudi, director of Bisan, told AFP that he was “afraid for (the) life and (the) safety” of the militants.

The NSO group found itself exposed in July after investigations published by an international media consortium revealing that its Pegasus software had made it possible to spy on the phones of journalists, politicians, activists or business leaders from various countries, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

The United States has placed NSO on its list of companies threatening national security because of its software that can retrieve messages, photos, contacts, and remotely activate the microphones of a smartphone.

This Tel Aviv-based company said it was “appalled” by this decision on its software, which was sold to foreign governments with the approval of the Israeli Defense.

Evidence

The Israeli internal security service Shin Beth accused the six NGOs of having diverted millions of dollars in aid from “several European countries” to the benefit of the PFLP, which this movement and the targeted organizations deny. A report of 74 pages of Shin Beth presented to American and European officials – consulted this weekend by AFP and whose “+ 972 magazine, “an independent Israeli-Palestinian media outlet, had first gained access – offers little to substantiate relations between the PFLP and these NGOs.

An Israeli security source told AFP that this report was not the only one against these NGOs, and that “different documents” had been presented “at different levels of confidentiality” to foreign officials. However, she did not say whether Pegasus had been used to obtain information.

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