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Israel: Police to use Pegasus spyware to probe mass shooting of Palestinian citizens

Attorney general permits police to use the notorious programme to wiretap people but not extract data
A girl lights candles during a vigil against violence targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel in the town of Basmat Tab'un on 27 September 2023 (AFP)
A girl lights candles during a vigil against violence targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel in the town of Basmat Tab'un on 27 September 2023 (AFP)

Israeli police will be allowed to use Pegasus spyware to investigate a mass shooting that left five Palestinian citizens of Israel dead on Wednesday, local media has said. 

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara gave the green light on Thursday for police to use the notorious programme often linked to illegal spying on activists and journalists worldwide. 

According to Channel 12, Baharav-Miara allowed police to use the spyware for wiretapping but not extracting data. 

A senior police official told Haaretz newspaper the use of the technology was important to “immediately save lives”.

On Wednesday, five Palestinian citizens of Israel from the same family, including two children, were shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Basmat Tab'un town in the Galilee. 

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It was the latest homicide affecting Palestinian citizens amid spiralling crime-related deaths in the community in recent months. 

Since the beginning of the year, at least 190 Palestinians have been killed by organised crime gangs, setting a record-high rate. In contrast, 116 fatalities were recorded in 2022. 

The vast majority of the killers have not been caught, while only 15 percent of organised crime cases have resulted in indictments. 

Israeli police have been heavily criticised for their inaction in fighting organised crime. 

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Many Palestinians accuse Israeli authorities of neglect and complicity with criminals in a bid to weaken the social fabric of their community and make them feel unsafe. 

Since early 2022, Israeli police have been banned from using Pegasus after it was revealed the force had used the spyware to hack the phones of political activists, mayors, senior officials and criminals, without a court order. 

The Pegasus software was developed by the Israel-based NSO Group and has been used by governments to illegally access people's phone data. 

Earlier this year, the White House said Pegasus had been used by governments "to facilitate repression and enable human rights abuses".

The US Department of Commerce placed NSO Group on its blacklist in 2021.

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