Two French consular workers, one of them a French national, the other a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem have been arrested for smuggling weapons from Gaza to Judea and Samaria, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed Monday.
According to the Shin Bet, Romain Franck, a French national who worked at the French Consulate in east Jerusalem, received the weapons from a resident of Gaza who worked at the French Cultural Center in the city. Franck transferred the weapons in five trips over the past few months, passing through the Erez border crossing with a diplomatic vehicle belonging to the consulate in order to avoid strict security screening. Over that period of time, Franck transferred roughly 70 handguns and two assault rifles to Judea and Samaria, where he passed them on to a local who sold them to arms dealers.
Aside from Franck, another eight people were arrested as part of the investigation, including the consulate’s Palestinian security guard and several Palestinians from Gaza who were residing in Judea and Samaria illegally. Six of the suspects are due to appear in court today.
According to the Shin Bet, Franck’s motivation was financial and he acted without the knowledge of his superiors.
Following the arrest of the French employees, the Israeli Foreign Ministry updated French authorities about the investigation. Israeli diplomatic sources said they view the incident as very grave, but added that relations with France would not be damaged and that the French authorities were cooperating with the investigation.
A spokesman for the French Embassy in Tel Aviv said: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Gen. Yoav ‘Poli’ Mordechai said the affair was “cynical abuse of humanitarian aid channels.”
“The international authorities need to conduct a thorough house cleaning in order to ensure aid for the people of Gaza and not to terror,” Mordechai said.