Israel has provided little evidence publicly to support the terrorism designation, which the Palestinian groups say aims to dry up their funding and muzzle opposition to Israeli military rule.

Security researchers disclosed Monday that spyware from the Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group was detected on the cellphones of six Palestinian human rights activists, half affiliated with groups that Israel’s defense minister alleged were involved in terrorism.

The revelation marks the first known instance of Palestinian activists being targeted by the military-grade Pegasus spyware. Its use against journalists, rights activists and political dissidents from Mexico to Saudi Arabia has been documented since 2015.

A successful Pegasus infection surreptitiously gives intruders access to everything a person stores and does on their phone, including real-time communications.

It’s not clear who placed the NSO spyware on the activists’ phones, said the researcher who first detected it, Mohammed al-Maskati of the nonprofit Frontline Defenders. The hacking began in July 2020, according to researchers.

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