Court rejects petition to curb spyware firm

An Israeli court has rejected a request to strip the controversial Israeli spyware firm NSO Group of its export license over the suspected use of the company’s technology in targeting journalists and dissidents worldwide.

The case, brought by Amnesty International in January, called on the court to prevent NSO from selling its technology abroad, especially to repressive regimes.

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled that Amnesty’s attorneys did not provide sufficient evidence “to prove the claim that an attempt was made to track a human rights activist by trying to hack his cellphone” or that the hacking was done by NSO.

The court issued its ruling on Sunday but made it public on Monday.

In 2018, Amnesty claimed that one of its employees was targeted by NSO’s malware, saying a hacker tried to break into the staffer’s smartphone.

NSO, an Israeli hacker-for-hire company, uses its Pegasus spyware to take control of a phone, its cameras and microphones, and mine the user’s personal data.

The company has been accused of selling its surveillance software to repressive governments that use it against dissidents. It doesn’t disclose clients, but they are believed to include Middle Eastern and Latin American states. The company says it sells its technology to Israeli-approved governments to help them combat criminals and terrorism.

A Saudi dissident has accused NSO of involvement in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in 2018.

— Associated Press


Houthis claim attacks on Saudi oil facility

Yemeni Houthi forces hit a large oil facility in the southern Saudi Arabian city of Jizan in drone and missile attacks overnight, a Houthi military spokesman said Monday.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis said earlier that it had intercepted and destroyed four missiles and six drones fired by the Houthis over the border toward Saudi Arabia. But there was no Saudi confirmation of where they were intercepted or whether anything was hit.

The oil company Saudi Aramco operates a 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery in the Red Sea city of Jizan, which lies about 40 miles from Yemen’s border. Aramco declined to comment.

“With many drones, our armed forces targeted military aircraft, pilot accommodation and Patriot systems in Khamis Mushait and other military targets at Abha, Jizan and Najran airports,” said Yahya Sarea, a Houthi military spokesman.

“Additionally, the giant oil facility in the Jizan industrial zone. The strike was accurate.”

Cross-border attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement have escalated since late May, when a truce prompted by the coronavirus pandemic expired. In late June, missiles reached the Saudi capital.

The coalition, in a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, did not say where the objects were intercepted but said the drones had been launched from the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed, internationally recognized government from Sanaa in late 2014.

— Reuters

Somalia's army chief survives bombing: Somalia's army chief survived an assassination attempt when a suicide car bomber targeted his convoy in the capital, officials said. At least one person was killed, they said. The blast occurred when the bomber tried to ram his vehicle into the convoy escorting Gen. Odowa Yusuf Rage, causing his bodyguards to open fire, said a senior Somali police officer. He said that the vehicle detonated and that a pedestrian standing nearby was killed. Several people, including some of the bodyguards, reportedly were injured. The extremist rebel group al-Shabab asserted responsibility for the blast

4 Azerbaijani troops killed in clashes with Armenia: Armenia and Azerbaijan blamed each other for skirmishes on their volatile border that left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several troops wounded on both sides. The two neighbors in the South Caucasus have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have frequently engaged in clashes.

— From news services