Iran denies it hacked Israeli would-be PM Benny Gantz’s phone

Tehran Foreign Ministry spokesperson says Israel is ‘fabricating various kinds of irrelevant claims to create a hostile atmosphere’

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz during a campaign event on March 18, 2019. (Courtesy: Blue and White)
Blue and White chief Benny Gantz during a campaign event on March 18, 2019. (Courtesy: Blue and White)

Iran on Wednesday denied reports in Israel that it hacked election candidate Benny Gantz’s cellphone, accusing the Jewish state of spreading false claims to stoke “Iranophobia.”

Last Thursday Channel 12 news reported Iranian intelligence had managed to gain access to Gantz’s phone and all its contents. A follow-up report on Saturday night said that no sensitive security information had been housed on Gantz’s phone at the time of the breach, but suggested that the incident was “embarrassing” for him.

Gantz said Tuesday that Israel’s Shin Bet security services told him about the hack six months ago, and that there was no sensitive material on the phone.

But Tehran vehemently denied the hacking reports early Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi telling reporters that Israel was “fabricating various kinds of irrelevant claims to create a hostile atmosphere against Iran,” according to the official news agency IRNA.

Qasemi accused Jerusalem of “distributing lies” and making use of propaganda to blame any incident in the world on Iran.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi briefs journalists at a press conference in Tehran on August 22, 2016.
(YouTube screenshot)

Gantz’s Blue and White party has said that the phone hack story was leaked in an attempt to divert attention away from the Case 3000 revelations, involving fresh allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have earned millions of shekels from the so-called submarine affair.

At the same time, the party has asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate who leaked the story to the press.

Gantz said on Monday that the fact that his phone had been hacked was “undoubtedly leaked,” but that any claim of impropriety on his part was “nothing but a smear.”

According to a report on Sunday, the cellphone of former prime minister Ehud Barak was hacked months ago and its contents were apparently sold to Iran.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv, on December 22, 2017. (Flash90)

A source with knowledge of the Barak case told Channel 12’s “Uvda” investigative program that Iran was not responsible for the security breach, but rather appears to have bought the information from foreign hackers.

The source said that the breach was not the result of negligence on Barak’s part, and that no embarrassing materials had been accessed.

Both Barak — a former IDF chief and defense minister who served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001 — and the Shin Bet refused to comment on the report.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister’s Office denied a Saudi report that the phones of the prime minister’s wife and son, Sara and Yair Netanyahu, were hacked by Iran.

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