The Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday denied a Saudi report that the cellphones of Sara and Yair Netanyahu, the wife and son of the prime minister, were hacked by Iran.
According to the report, the Iranian intelligence service breached the phones and was able to extract information from them. The alleged hack was said to have occurred several months ago.
The report appeared on the recently launched Arabic website of the UK’s Independent newspaper, a venture backed by a Saudi publishing group with close ties to the kingdom’s royal family.
A source told the website that Sara and Yair Netanyahu were not themselves the main target of the hack, but rather that it was an attempt to gain general information as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself does not have a cellphone.
“After checking with security officials, it appears that nothing has happened,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement in response to the report.
The report comes a day after the prime minister mocked Blue and White chief and election rival Benny Gantz over a purported Iranian hack of his phone.
“If Benny Gantz can’t protect his phone, how will he protect our country?” goaded Netanyahu in a Facebook post.
The initial report about the alleged hack was carried on Thursday by Channel 12, which said Iranian intelligence had managed to gain access to Gantz’s cellphone 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.
Responding to the report, Blue and White 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 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 behalf 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.
A source with knowledge of the 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.
Sources told Channel 12 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.