'Unidentified' Asian nation signs $112 million Israeli intelligence deal

'Unidentified' Asian nation signs $112 million Israeli intelligence deal
An unidentified country secured a $112 million intelligence systems deal with Israeli firm Elbit, reports confirmed on Monday.
3 min read
03 December, 2018
The company fell short of identifying the client nation [Getty]
Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems said on Monday it won a $112 million contract from an Asia-Pacific country to supply advanced airborne intelligence systems, according to local media.

The contract will be performed over six years, the company said, although it fell short of identifying the client nation.

The latest deal came after reports revealed that Israeli spyware system Pegasus 3 was purchased by Saudi Arabia in the lead up to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's purge of opponents in 2017.

Dozens of highly influential individuals - including members of the royal family - were arrested and allegedly tortured under the guise of corruption crackdown.

A close associate of Riyadh's former head of intelligence, Abdullah al-Malihi, and the intelligence chief Nasser al-Qahtani, met with representatives of NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli cyber technology firm.

The first of three meetings, which discussed the firm's latest sophisticated espionage tool, the Pegasus 3, took place in Vienna and subsequently Cyprus, in 2017, Haaretz revealed.

The system would allow the Saudis to hack into the phones of suspected opponents inside the kingdom, as well as dissidents around the world, the Israeli daily reported. 

An agreement was made between the Israeli businessmen and Saudi royals to purchase the Pegasus 3 system for $55 million, according to a European businessman with connections in the Gulf states. 

In September, a Citizen's Lab report revealed a number of Gulf states - likely the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - are using Pegasus spyware to snoop on activists.

It revealed that the UAE has the highest intensity of "infections" from the Israeli-made spyware, suggesting that suspected dissidents have been widely targeted. 

The site has previously highlighted the case of Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor, who was targeted with the spyware after clicking on a link sent to his phone promising to reveal "new secrets" about detainees tortured in UAE jails. 

Mansoor was sentenced to ten years in jail in 2018 for critical social media posts, after he was detained by UAE authorities in 2017.

Amnesty International revealed this year that a member of staff and a Saudi activist working with the organisation has been targeted using Pegasus. 

"The same operator responsible for that targeting appears to be conducting surveillance across the Middle East, as well as in Europe and North America," the report states. 

The revelations come amid global outrage over the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul.

After persistent denials and numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh finally admitted Khashoggi was killed in the consulate and his body was dismembered.

Turkish intelligence and CIA reports concluded the murder was orchestrated among the highest circles of the Saudi royal family, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The spyware is being used by government agencies in 46 countries, the report found, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, the UAE, and Yemen.

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