A Lebanese human rights group called on Thursday for an investigation into security agencies after it learned from Reuters that several phones had been implanted with spyware distributed by Pegasus.
Camas International said two of its staff in the Palestinian Territories had phones affected, adding it would take legal action if necessary. They had reports that their phones had been infected with Pegasus since January, it said.
Camas International is a Lebanese group that tries to expose Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and supports Palestinian organizations, according to its website.
Reuters was unable to immediately determine the nature of the Pegasus spyware or how it was used.
Camas International’s Senior Researcher Shahed Amanat told Reuters the phones involved were used in the Palestinian Territories by staff on a number of projects, including in refugee camps, conducting advocacy and aid work.
Amanda H. Sloat, who heads the global investigations team at Reuters, said in a statement the service it provided “absolutely complies with ethical standards and is covered by the Reuters Information Security Program”.
Israeli security officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The tactics used in the Palestinian Territories are not uncommon. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem in January said it was examining if it could uncover a network of spying by foreign hackers, including possible links to its arch-enemy Iran.
Israel has previously blocked the human rights group from accessing information about whether its own agents were spying on organisations it supports.
J. David Cox, general secretary of the International Federation of Human Rights, said the organisation had been “shocked to learn that a human rights organisation called Camas International appears to have been hacked”.
Reuters could not immediately locate contact details for the founder of Camas International, who was not available to comment on Thursday.
“This is a clear breach of international human rights standards and of the unwritten agreement between all major political parties to keep them above suspicion and suspicion of being a target of state activity,” Cox said.
He said the federation was contacting Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, Britain and France to press their governments to launch an “immediate” investigation.
The Pentagon is examining the suspect software, including whether it fell into the hands of a foreign state after a domestic investigation into possible espionage on Israeli diplomats and other government officials, a U.S. official told Reuters in April.
Israeli officials first learned of the Pegasus malware in 2014 when a U.S. government intelligence agency flagged the dangers of such tools to the Israeli spy services, an Israeli source told Reuters.