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Israeli intelligence agencies allegedly spying on ICC

For almost a decade, Israel has led a secret ‘war’ against the International Criminal Court (ICC). Intelligence agencies reportedly surveilled, hacked, pressured, smeared and threatened senior ICC staff in an effort to derail the court’s inquiries.

The Guardian conducted an investigation with several Israeli news outlets to multiple Israeli espionage campaigns, which had one goal: to thwart ICC’s inquiries.

The Guardian states that this secret ‘war’ began in 2015, when Palestine joined the Court after it was recognized as a state by the United Nations general assembly. This decision was not well received by Israel and called Palestine’s accession a form of “diplomatic terrorism”.

Ever since, Israeli (military) intelligence divisions such as Unit 8200, Aman and Shin Bet spied on numerous ICC officials, including chief prosecutor Karim Khan and his predecessor Fatou Bensouda. The agencies also intercepted phone calls, messages, emails and documents.

Multiple sources familiar with Israel’s intelligence activities said the agencies routinely monitored the phone calls made by Bensouda and her staff. Because Israel blocked access to Gaza and the West Bank for ICC employees, most of the research was done remotely by telephone.

But thanks to Israel’s comprehensive access to Palestinian telecoms infrastructure, confidential talks were susceptible to surveillance. One of the sources The Guardian spoke said that the Israeli spy agency Shin Bet installed Pegasus spyware on the phones of numerous Palestinian NGO employees.

Israel denies all allegations

The objective of Israel’s espionage and eavesdropping operations was likely to put pressure on the ICC’s prosecutor and to make him stop or weaken his inquiries into Israel. Thanks to the efforts of its intelligence agencies, Israel was ahead of what the ICC knew. That allowed Israel to prepare for investigations, and increase pressure on the ICC, either with or without allies.

A spokesperson for the ICC said he was aware of “proactive intelligence-gathering activities” undertaken by a number of national agencies that are hostile to the Court. He added that the ICC is continually implementing countermeasures against spying and intelligence collecting campaigns.

A spokesperson for president Benjamin Netanyahu’s office claimed the questions The Guardian forwarded were “replete with many false and unfounded allegations meant to hurt the state of Israel”.

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not and does not conduct surveillance or other intelligence operations against the ICC”, an Israeli military spokesperson told The Guardian.

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