Palestinian gets 9 years for hacking Israeli drones

Jerusalem: A court in Israel today sentenced a Palestinian computer engineer from Gaza to nine years in jail for hacking into Israeli drones for the militant group Islamic Jihad, the justice ministry said.

A transcript of the court proceedings released by the ministry said that Majid Oweida, a 23-year-old from Gaza City, had been convicted of spying and other offences, following a plea-bargain agreement earlier this week.

Today, it said, the district court in the southern city of Beersheba passed sentence.

The ministry said Oweida had pleaded guilty to “various offences against state security including membership of, and activity in, a forbidden organisation”.

The transcript said Oweida admitted that in 2015 he agreed to develop software “to hack into and monitor broadcasts of pictures from the skies of Gaza” by Israeli military drones.

“In so doing, he entered a conspiracy to pass information to an enemy liable to assist it in harming (Israeli) state security.”

It said he was equipped with a laptop computer, a signal decoder and a satellite dish capable of receiving data from Israel’s Amos civilian communications satellite.

It added that after two failed attempts, he managed on the third try to hack into the drone transmissions “in real time… And full HD quality”.

The pictures revealed “intelligence information about terror operatives active in the fields of firing and storing missiles in Gaza”.

The court heard that he had been recruited by Islamic Jihad in 2011 and agreed that year to “write a computer programme with which it would be possible to monitor traffic cameras in Israel for the purpose of Islamic Jihad attacks”.

The transcript said the live access to police data could have helped Islamic Jihad improve the accuracy of its missile attacks into Israel and reveal the location of Israeli security forces.

It said he also infiltrated the computer system of the interior ministry of Hamas, the dominant Islamist movement which rules Gaza.

Oweida, who intially worked for Islamic Jihad as a sound engineer and presenter on one of its Gaza radio stations, was arrested in February 2016 as he travelled from Gaza to the West Bank for a broadcast of the “Super Star” Arabic-language TV singing contest.