JERUSALEM, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The Likud party hired hundreds of activists to use hidden cameras to film Arab voters in polling stations during the Israeli elections Tuesday, officials said.
A police spokesman told Xinhua that "dozens" of cameras were seized by the police in Arab-majority towns throughout Israel.
The Hebrew-language Walla news site reported that there were some 1,200 hidden cameras installed in polling sites.
Video footages emerged on social networks showed polling representatives of the Likud with cameras hidden in their shirts or bags. The footages were taken by activists with the Arab-Jewish Hadash-Ta'al list, who first exposed the hidden cameras.
An official with Likud party, led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, confirmed that the party was behind the move.
Kobi Matza, the Likud's representative in the Central Elections Committee, told Kan Bet Radio that the cameras were tracking possible voter fraud. "They aimed to preserve the purity of the election," said Matza.
Netanyahu himself defended the hidden cameras, telling reporters that they were placed in order to "ensure a fair vote."
Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who is also chairman of the Central Elections Committee, banned the cameras. In a special statement released Tuesday, Melcer said it was forbidden for polling station committee members to film voters or the voting process. He said filming was permitted only "in extraordinary circumstances," such as violence or alleged fraud.
Ahmad Tibi, a lawmaker and co-leader of the Hadash-Taal Arab-Jewish list, said the Likud wanted to intimidate Arab voters by using the cameras.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that the Likud spent "hundreds of thousands of shekels" on the move. A senior Likud official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper that the move aimed to ensure that Balad-Taal list, a coalition of two nationalist Palestinian parties, will not pass the electoral threshold by forging votes.
Netanyahu is in a closely-fought election race with Israel's former Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist party of Blue and White.
The voting began at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) at over 10,000 polling stations across the country and is due to end at 10 p.m. local time (1900 GMT).