The Shin Bet security service hacked the phones of several anti-Netanyahu protesters on suspicion they sought to break into the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, Channel 13 news reported Saturday.
The report said the security agency was granted authorization to read messages on demonstrators’ phones and search their homes after a number of protesters breached a police barricade outside the compound last week, with Netanyahu and his wife Sara reportedly moved to a safe room.
The protesters had no intention to break into the residence but wanted to tie themselves to the fence outside, according to the network.
The security service said in response that “The Shin Bet acts in accordance with the law to safeguard the country’s security, democratic governmental order and institutions. If any threat of this type is identified, the Shin Bet will act in accordance with the tools at its disposal in accordance [with] the law.”
The Black Flags and Crime Minister protest groups slammed the agency over the report.
“It seems the complete chaos at [the Prime Minister’s Residence] and the fear of democratic protests that could topple the corrupt also penetrated the Shin Bet,” Crime Minister said, referring to Netanyahu’s trial on graft charges.
In a separate report, Channel 12 news quoted a police source criticizing the decision to move the Netanyahus to a safe room.
“There was no justification because there was no danger of a break-in by protesters,” the source said.
According to Hebrew media, Netanyahu, his wife and several other staff members were rushed to the secure side-room in the residence last week, where they waited for roughly 40 minutes before the premier’s security detail from the Shin Bet deemed it was safe for the prime minister to return to work.
By arriving at 4 p.m., two hours before the demonstration was set to begin, dozens of protesters apparently caught police off guard and managed to get closer to the Prime Minister’s Residence than usual.
Footage showed the activists passing an initial temporary barricade, running about 100 yards down the street before they reached the back gate to the compound on Smolenskin Street.
קריים מיניסטר טוענים שהמחסום שתראו בתיעוד הוא לכלי רכב ואפשר היה לעבור והרחוב טרם נסגר. אני רואה המון רץ לכיוון הרחוב וחלק מהם גם כמעט מפילים שוטר. pic.twitter.com/9PWlunSdfX
— Yossi Eli יוסי אלי (@Yossi_eli) January 8, 2021
Most stood and chanted slogans, but others scuffled with officers who tried to clear them away.
Eight anti-Netanyahu activists were arrested in the skirmishes that ensued. Security has since been tightened around the Jerusalem compound and an additional fence was erected near the scene of the breached checkpoint.
The incident took place on Saturday, January 2, but was leaked to the three major TV networks and aired simultaneously on Friday evening in what some TV analysts said was an attempt from Netanyahu’s aides to draw a parallel between the storming of the US Capitol on Wednesday by supporters of US President Donald Trump and the anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in Israel.
Citing unnamed sources, Channel 13 said that Netanyahu’s security detail had simply been following protocol. Netanyahu himself thought that the precaution taken was unnecessary but he was “emotionally stirred” nonetheless by the incident, the network reported.
Statements from the Black Flag and Crime Minister groups that protest on a weekly basis against Netanyahu issued statements denying accusations that they had tried to breach the Prime Minister’s Residence, calling the reports “lies.”