Jerusalem (AFP)

An Israeli parliamentary committee gave the green light on Tuesday to the collection of personal data from citizens by the intelligence services, a controversial measure put in place by the authorities as part of the fight against the new coronavirus.

The Israeli government had authorized the internal security service, the Shin Beth, earlier in March to collect personal data from citizens via their mobile phone in order to help it fight against this virus which has contaminated more than 4,800 so far. people in the country.

But, seized by defenders of civil rights, the Supreme Court had demanded the establishment of a parliamentary control to authorize or not the continuation of the digital surveillance.

"At the end of a marathon of discussions (...) the provisional commission of the Knesset (the Parliament, note) on the affairs relating to Shin Beth approved the decision of the government to authorize the Shin Beth to help in the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus for a month (until April 30, 2020), "said the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in a statement.

Having said he was determined to use all means "in the war against an invisible enemy", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had, with the support of the government, instructed the Shin Beth to collect personal data, which, according to details having leaked in the press, would unknowingly locate carriers of the virus and people in quarantine via telephone operators.

An appeal against the measure had been lodged by the "United List" of Arab parties, the country's third political force, and by NGOs defending civil rights.

The "Bleu-Blanc" party of ex-general Benny Gantz had denounced "a dangerous decision" because taken without parliamentary control.

Former political rival to Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz is currently in talks with the outgoing Prime Minister to form a government of "unity and urgency" to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

© 2020 AFP