Taking spying allegations 'seriously', Israel tells France

Published : July 29, 2021 18:54 IST

Israeli Defence Minister, Benny Gantz (file). Photo: Reuters

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz discussed the spying allegations concerning Pegasus, a software developed by Israeli cyber-surveillance company NSO, during a meeting with his French counterpart in Paris.

Israel's Defecse Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday told his French counterpart that his country was taking spying allegations surrounding Pegasus software — developed by Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO — "seriously".

The software is suspected of being used by Moroccan authorities to spy on President Emmanuel Macron and other French officials. Gantz, who was on a visit to Paris, met French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) Head Bernard Emie and leaders of the French Jewish community.

"Minister Gantz addressed the topic of NSO and stated that Israel is taking the allegations seriously," a statement by the Israeli Defense Ministry said. "He noted that the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products exclusively to governmental entities, for lawful use and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and counter terrorism."

Gantz also told Parly that officials had visited NSO's office on July 28 and "Israel is investigating the allegations thoroughly."

Pegasus — which can switch on a phone's camera and microphone and gather its data — created an international outcry after a list of around 50,000 numbers, allegedly selected by NSO customers as potential espionage targets, was leaked to human rights groups. It included mobile phone numbers of several heads of state and journalists.

The Israeli cyber-security firm has said that it only sells Pegasus to approved governments to fight crime and terrorism. It has also denied that Macron specifically was targeted and disputed other individual details from the reports.

Amnesty International and French media nonprofit, Forbidden Stories, collaborated with some media companies, including The Washington Post, The Guardian and le Monde, to analyse and publish the list.

Morocco's ambassador in Paris has denied reports that a security service in his country had targeted the French President, who has since changed his phone and number. Le Monde newspaper and Radio France said Macron's phone numbers and those of former prime minister Edouard Philippe, along with 14 government members including foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, were on the list of numbers chosen by the Moroccan state security service that used Pegasus for a possible hack.

Gantz also discussed the Iran nuclear issue and the concerns about weapons deliveries to Lebanon, his ministry said.

dvv/msh (AFP, dpa)

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