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  • BBC

NSO Group: Israel launches inquiry into police hacking claims

Israel's government will set up a commission of inquiry to examine reports the police used spyware made by NSO Group to hack the phones of Israeli public figures without authorisation.

Officials, protesters, journalists and a son of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among those targeted, the local newspaper Calcalist said.

A witness in Mr Netanyahu's corruption trial was also allegedly monitored.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the reports, if true, were "very serious".

NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, has faced widespread allegations that its hacking software Pegasus has been sold to and misused by authoritarian governments across the world.

The company has insisted that it does not operate the software once it is sold to clients and has previously stated that it could not be used to track Israeli citizens. It has not commented on the latest development.

Pegasus infects phones, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones and cameras.

"This tool (Pegasus) and similar tools are important tools in the fight against terrorism and severe crime. But they were not intended to be used in phishing campaigns targeting the Israeli public or officials, which is why we need to understand exactly what happened," Mr Bennett said in a statement.

The prime minister said he would discuss the matter with the newly appointed Attorney General, Gali Baharav-Miara, and that they would "not leave the public without answers".

President Isaac Herzog also expressed concern.

"We must not lose our democracy. We must not lose our police. And we must certainly not lose public trust in them. This requires an in-depth and thorough investigation," he said.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said the commission of inquiry would be headed by a retired judge and would "conduct an in-depth investigation into violations of civil rights and privacy during the years in question".

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