Recent reports by Israeli and international media suggesting the Chinese Embassy in Israel gifted thermal coffee mugs containing hidden spyware to Israel’s government on the occasion of the upcoming Jewish Passover holiday are “baseless rumors,” the official website of the Chinese Embassy in Israel claimed on Wednesday.
“[C]ertain Israeli media spread rumors that, among the Passover holiday gifts the Embassy sent to the Israeli side following diplomatic customary practices, a thermal mug in the gifts ‘may’ contain ‘a suspicious device’. However, the so-called ‘suspicious device’ is in fact a getter, which could be easily found in the same kind of thermal mugs,” the April 13 press release read.
The Chinese Embassy in Israel referred to reports by several Israeli news outlets and international news platforms on April 12 revealing Israeli authorities had in recent days discovered “suspicious materials” inside thermal beverage mugs gifted to Israeli Science, Technology, and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen for Passover.
“The gift aroused the suspicions of the office’s security guards when it set off an alarm during a security screening. After another examination, the gift was transferred to the Shin Bet [the Israel Security Agency] over suspicions that it contained a surveillance device,” Israel’s Haaretz newspaper detailed on April 12.
“Following the incident, the Shin Bet contacted additional government offices to locate more of these cups. Another gift was apparently sent to the office of Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and a third to the office of Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper,” according to Haaretz.
While investigating the suspicious mugs, Shin Bet advised security guards at all relevant Israeli government ministries to “remain vigilant regarding gifts from embassies or foreign governments,” the newspaper revealed.
The Israel Defense Force’s Army Radio first broke the story on April 12, reporting that “government ministries were asked to increase their supervision of gifts from China over concerns that they may contain ‘listening devices or cameras.’”
Shin Bet concluded its probe into the Chinese mugs later on April 12 and found that the gifts did not contain spyware. The security agency, also known as Israel’s General Security Service (GSS), said it identified the suspicious device inside the mugs as a “getter,” or a “common addition to thermal products which absorbs any free oxygen left in the vacuum layer during production.”
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) April 12, 2022
“GSS technology experts who examined the component determined that it was an innocent component designed to maintain the vacuum in the sides of the beverage cup and maintain temperature over time,” Shin Bet said in a statement.
The Jewish holiday of Passover begins this year on the evening of Friday, April 15, and lasts through the evening of April 23.
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