Hundreds of soldiers can listen to the conversations being conducted at any given time, Middle East Eye reports.
Israel monitors and can listen to every telephone call in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a report.
Citing an intelligence source, Middle East Eye has reported that every mobile phone entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, south of Gaza, is compromised and every phone call made through Jawwal and Wataniya, the only two mobile networks available in the occupied territories, is also monitored.
The call recordings target Palestinians who are politically active and are considered a security threat.
The audio monitoring under Shin Bet, the domestic security service, uses information acquired through call recordings against Palestinians to force them to collaborate, the former signals intelligence member said.
“It might be finding gays who can be pressured to report on their relatives, or finding some man who is cheating on his wife. Finding someone who owes money to someone, let’s say, means that he can be contacted and offered money to pay his debt in exchange for his collaboration,” a former member of the Israeli Army’s elite signals intelligence unit 8200 told Middle East Eye.
This system of mass surveillance is carried out by Jewish Israeli soldiers who learnt Arabic as part of their military service.
Each conversation is transcribed and translated and then sent to the army’s intelligence units and to Shin Bet.
“Sometimes these are private conversations, maybe even intimate conversations. People who are soldiers in the army would laugh when they heard sex talk. Soldiers save the conversations and send them to their friends. This is a very harsh invasion of the privacy of every Palestinian living there,” the former intelligence operative said.
Invasion of privacy
Israel has for years used mobile phone surveillance to track Palestinians.
In a Washington Post report released early in November, several former Israeli soldiers and the NGO Breaking the Silence said that the Israeli military created a database that included photos of Palestinians living in the West Bank
The article said that the facial recognition programme and database that one former Israeli soldier described as a secret “Facebook for Palestinians” is being used to conduct broad surveillance in the occupied West Bank.
Last month, Israeli authorities designated 6 Palestinian civil society orgs as "terrorists" in a brazen attack on human rights. This unjust decision is an escalation of Israel's systematic attempts to muzzle human rights monitoring of its repressive rule over Palestinians.— Amnesty International (@amnesty) November 8, 2021
The surveillance programme involves smartphones equipped with a facial recognition programme called "Blue Wolf" that matches images of Palestinians’ faces with a vast database.
Children, the elderly, or anyone else could have their picture taken. "We don’t need suspicious signs in order to take photos, the point was to take photos,” a former sergeant stationed in Hebron in 2020 said in an account published by Breaking the Silence.
“There was even like a bit of competition.”
Units that took the most photos would win prizes, such as a night off, the Washington Post reported.
In a report published last week by Amnesty International and internet security watchdog Citizen Lab said that the mobile phones of six Palestinian rights workers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were hacked using Israeli technology firm NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.
"The United Nations is responsible for human rights and for protecting human rights and they have a responsibility to launch such an investigation to make sure that countries don't exploit these software to repress human rights advocates," Sahar Francis, director of Addameer Organization, said at a news conference in Ramallah last week.
The US government blacklisted NSO Group after cyber security campaigners obtained a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers selected for surveillance by NSO Group clients.