'Gun smuggling case unlikely to hurt Israeli-French relations'

Authorities say French man employed by consulate who smuggled guns acted on his own. French officials are cooperating with investigation.

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AFP, Arutz Sheva Staff,

Israeli and French flags
Israeli and French flags
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The French government is cooperating with Israeli security and law enforcement officials, following the revelation that a French national employed by the French consulate in Jerusalem helped smuggle guns from the Gaza Strip to arms dealers in Judea and Samaria. Because of France’s cooperation with Israeli authorities charged with investigating the matter, senior Israeli officials believe the case will not harm relations between the two countries, an Israeli official told AFP.

On February 15th, Romain Franck, a French citizen in his 20s employed at the Jerusalem consulate, was arrested by Israeli police near the Gaza border, after he reportedly smuggled at least 72 guns out of the Gaza Strip via the Erez Crossing on at least five different occasions.

The story first broke on Sunday, and on Monday, the Shin Bet internal security agency cleared details of the arrest for publication.

A total of nine individuals, including a Jerusalem Arab employed by the consulate, as well as residents of Judea and Samaria and several Gaza Arabs illegally residing in Israel, were arrested in the crackdown. Indictments are slated to be filed against six of the suspects on Monday.

Both Israeli and French authorities emphasized that the two countries were in “close contact” during the investigation, and that consulate officials were cooperating with Israeli investigators.

A spokesman for France's embassy in Israel said Sunday "we take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities".

Franck "has benefited and continues to enjoy the consular protection" provided to French nationals, he said.

The Shin Bet called the incident "very severe", saying that "the immunity and privileges given to foreign representatives were cynically abused to smuggle dozens of weapons that could be used for terror attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces".

"The investigation was conducted in cooperation with the Israeli foreign ministry while constantly updating the French authorities," it said.

An Israeli official said on condition of anonymity that while authorities were taking the case "very seriously," diplomatic relations were not affected.

"The relations with France are excellent and won't be affected by this affair," the official said.

"We thank the French authorities for their cooperation."








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