According to leaked documents released by Edward Snowden, British intelligence spied on Israeli diplomats and military officials in 2008 and 2009, the French newspaper Le Monde and Israel’s Haaretz reported on Wednesday.
One of the files from 2009 said that “Britain’s GCHQ intelligence-gathering apparatus defined Israel as ‘a true threat’ to the Middle East”.
“The Israelis constitute a true threat to regional security, notably because of the country’s position on the Iran issue,” the file said.
The UK spy agency gathered data on the “second-highest ranking official in the Israeli foreign ministry”, who went unidentified by Le Monde and Haaretz. The two outlets also said that the UK gathered surveillance on the Palestinian Authority.
GCHQ tapped the phone of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in December 2008, weeks before Israel launched an offensive the following month.
GCHQ also monitored emails between Israel’s ambassadors to Kenya and Nigeria and the private Israel defence company Ophir Optronics.
During those two years, the UK spied on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s secretary general and several Palestinian diplomatic delegations, including former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei and Israeli-Palestinian parliamentarian Dr Ahmad Tibi.
The documents were released by Edward Snowden, the 33-year-old who is wanted in the US to face trial on charges brought under the Espionage Act after he leaked thousands of classified documents in 2013 revealing the vast US surveillance of private data put in place after the 11 September 2001 attacks.