Israeli authorities say two employees of the French consulate in Jerusalem worked with a arms smuggling ring in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem to sneak weapons out of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, it was revealed that a French national employed by the consulate had been arrested on February 15th for a “serious” security issue, sources close to the case said.
The French national, a man in his twenties, is due to appear before a court in southern Israel on Monday, they said.
Ahead of the man’s court appearance, officials from Israel’s Shin Ben internal security agency revealed that the suspect, Romain Franck, had been involved with a smuggling ring which included Arab residents of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem.
Investigators from the Shin Bet and Israel Police say Franck and a Jerusalem Arab employed by the French consulate used a consulate vehicle to transfer weapons from Gaza to Judea and Samaria. The smuggling ring took advantage of the reduced scrutiny faced by French government officials using marked vehicles operated by the consulate.
The transfers reportedly took place at the Erez Crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. At least five weapon transfers were carried out over the past few months, security officials say. During the transfers approximately 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles were smuggled into Israel.
"The consulate employee smuggled the arms on a number of occasions in recent months while using the French consulate's consular car, which underwent a more lax security inspection at the border crossing, as is the case with this type of car," a statement from the Shin Bet read.
"The consulate employee transferred arms on five occasions, during which he transferred some 70 pistols and two automatic rifles."
An employee of a French cultural center in Gaza City helped facilitate the transfers, authorities say.
Shin Bet officials say the consulate was unaware of Franck’s smuggling activities prior to his arrest.
During the crackdown on the smuggling ring police arrested not only Roman Franck, but also a Jerusalem Arab employed by the French consulate, a number of Gaza Arabs illegally residing in Israel, and several Arab residents of Judea and Samaria.
Thus far, nine suspects have been taken into custody, with indictments expected to be filed Monday against six of them.
“This is a very severe matter,” said a senior Shin Bet official. "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".