Iran Denies Hack as Netanyahu Blasts Gantz: Tell World What Tehran Has on You

It's not gossip, it's a matter of state security, Netanyahu says

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during an inauguration ceremony in the northern coast of the Persian Gulf, March 17, 2019.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during an inauguration ceremony in the northern coast of the Persian Gulf, March 17, 2019. Credit: Vahid Salemi/AP

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasem rejected on Wednesday reports that Tehran had hacked the phones of several senior Israeli politicians.

A report in Iran's state-run IRNA news agency cited Qasem as accusing Israel of playing "blame game and promoting hype" in the wake of Israeli reports that Iranians had tapped the phones of ex-general Benny Gantz, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara and son Yair.

Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19Credit: Haaretz

According the report, Qasem said the Israeli claims were made out of "hostility, malice and to promote Iranophobia," also placing the blame on U.S. officials. The Iranian official went on to blast the reports, calling them an attempt to "unprofessionally" attribute any incident to Iran.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the reason Gantz is "panicking" is that Iran "stole important things from him."

"Benny Gantz," Netanyahu said in his Jerusalem office, "what are you hiding from the Israeli public? What do the Iranians know about you that you are keeping from us?"

Netanyahu continued: "How will you confront Iran, our number one enemy, when Iran has sensitive material on you? This is not gossip, it's a matter of state security. The only way you will not be blackmailed is for you to reveal it all."

Benny Gantz during a the Kahol Lavan event in Haifa, March 17, 2019. Credit: Rami Chelouche

>> Read more: How Israel's Iran hacking scandal could ensure Netanyahu's reelectionAn Iranian hacking that could become an assault on Israeli democracy | Editorial ■ No one knows what was on Gantz's phone, but we know whom the scandal benefits | Analysis

Last week, journalist Amit Segal broke the news on Israel's Channel 12 news that Gantz, the chairman of the Kahol Lavan political alliance, was the victim of Iranian hacking.

The report, which was confirmed by Gantz's party, said that two officials from Israel's Shin Ben security service apparoached the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff six weeks ago and informed him that the private device was breached.

The two told Gantz that the Iranians hacked into one of his devices during the election campaign and are in possession of the contents of his phone. They warned him that the breach was a security risk, seeing as Iran might unveil information it finds on his cellphone after the election, or tamper with the election process.

On Monday, Channel 12 reported that information from former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's computer and cellphone was purchased by Iran after hackers accessed the devices. According to sources, Tehran did not hack the devices.

Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet, had reportedly informed Barak of the breach several months ago. According to the channel's sources, the breach was not a result of carelessness on the part of Barak and the stolen content did not contain embarrassing information.

The next day, a report in The Independent, a Saudi publication, said Iran had hacked the phones of Sara and Yair Netanyahu in an attempt to eavesdrop on conversations with the premier.

The Prime Minister's Office responded to the report, stating that after checking the claims with security officials, it was clear that the report was false.

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