US spies hacked the Israeli air force: reports

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The U.S. and Britain have been monitoring the secret communications of Israel’s air force since 1998, according to new documents reportedly leaked by former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden.

Media outlets in Israel, Germany and the United States published reports Friday on the revelation, Reuters reported.

According to the documents, U.S. and British intelligence officials monitored military operations in Gaza and tracked Israel’s drone technology exports under a classified program known as “Anarchist.”

Through the program, spies could also hack into the live feeds of drones.

“This access is indispensable for maintaining an understanding of Israeli military training and operations and thus an insight to possible future developments in the region,” said a classified 2008 report from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s main surveillance agency, The Intercept reported.

The Anarchist program apparently operated from nearby Cyprus and gathered information on drones used by Syria and by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“In times of crisis this access is critical and one of the only avenues to provide up to the minute information and support to U.S. and Allied operations in the area,” the GCHQ report said.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel’s Army Radio he was unhappy about, but unsurprised by, the revelations.

"I do not think that this is the deepest kingdom of secrets, but it is certainly something that should not happen, which is unpleasant," he said, according to Reuters. "We will now have to look and consider changing the encryption, certainly."

The disclosure comes at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Israel. The two countries have sparred over the recent nuclear deal the U.S. helped broker between six world powers and Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the agreement, which rolled back international sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran dismantling portions of its nuclear program.

Steinitz said Israel does not conduct similar surveillance on the U.S.

"We know that the Americans spy on the whole world, and also on us, also on their friends," Steinitz said.

"But still, it is disappointing,” he added. “Going back decades already, we have not spied nor collected intelligence nor hacked encryptions in the United States."