Netanyahu denies report that Israel planted spy devices near the White House

The allegations that Israel planted surveillance devices near the White House were reported by news site Politico.

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By Saphora Smith and Paul Goldman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday denied that his country's spies were responsible for surveillance devices found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington.

His denial came after Politico, citing three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter, reported Thursday that the U.S. government had concluded that Israel was most most likely behind the discovery of the devices capable of tracking cellphone activity.

NBC News was unable to immediately independently verify the report; the White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Netanyahu's office called allegations that Israel was spying on U.S. soil as "a blatant lie."

“There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S.,” it said in a statement. “This directive is strictly enforced without exception.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.Abir Sultan / Reuters

The allegations could potentially rock what is a key diplomatic relationship for both the U.S. and Israel, days ahead of an Israeli general election in which Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. The prime minister was en route to Sochi, Russia, Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin before Israelis head to the polls on Sept. 17.

The news comes two days after Netanyahu pledged to begin annexing parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank if he wins re-election next week. He said he would do so with “maximum coordination” with the U.S.

Politico reported that the three unnamed senior U.S. officials said the U.S. government had concluded within the last two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of the devices. The website reported that it was unclear whether the efforts were successful.

Israel's minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, also denied the report. He said Israel does not conduct spy operations in the U.S.

“The U.S. and Israel share a lot of intelligence information and work together to prevent threats and strengthen the security of both countries," he said in reaction to the allegations.

In October last year, U.S. officials told NBC News that they had been concerned for months that President Donald Trump has been discussing sensitive information on an unsecured cellphone, after The New York Times reported that Chinese and Russian spies had been listening to his personal calls.