Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is denying a report that Israel set up spying devices near the White House, saying it is a "complete fabrication."
The spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, Elad Strohmayer, also denied the report by the Washington-based news site Politico, telling VOA, "Israel doesn't conduct espionage operations in the United States, period."
Later Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to agree with the Israelis. Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn, the president said, "I don't believe" that Israel would deploy surveillance technology outside the White House.
Politico reported Thursday that the U.S. government believes Israel, a close U.S. ally, was probably responsible for planting eavesdropping devices found near the White House and other sensitive locations in the nation's capital.
The small surveillance devices, commonly known as StingRays, "were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump," Politico wrote. But the report added, "It's not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful."
Several former senior U.S. national security officials told Politico that analysis of the devices by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other U.S. agencies linked them to Israeli agents. The report says the U.S. government, citing the officials, concluded within the last two years that Israel was likely behind the placement of the devices.
Politico described the anonymous sources as having "knowledge about the matter" and that the devices were discovered some time ago.
Two years ago, an unknown number of the devices was found near potentially sensitive locations in Washington during a U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigative project.
The U.S., however, has not taken action against Israel for allegedly planting the devices. The report suggested the U.S. has downplayed Israel's alleged actions due to the very close relationship Trump has with Netanyahu.
The report was published just before Israel's general election next week that has Netanyahu locked in a close race for reelection. It also came in a week during which Trump appeared to distance himself from Netanyahu's unwavering stance on Iran by signaling a possible meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.