politics

French Embassy Driver Charged With Ferrying Arms to Palestinians

Updated on
  • Driver, five Palestinians charged with crimes in Israeli court
  • Worker said to use diplomatic car to avoid security checks

An employee of France’s consulate in Jerusalem was charged in Israel with arms trafficking after he allegedly used a diplomatic car to smuggle weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

Romain Franck, 24, was arrested Feb. 19 on suspicion of helping the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza move pistols and assault rifles between the two Palestinian territories, France’s Le Figaro newspaper reported Sunday. He and five Palestinians, including one who worked as a security guard at the French consulate, were indicted Monday in an Israeli court.

The immunity and rights extended to foreign diplomats were cynically exploited to transport weapons that could be used for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, an unnamed official said in a statement from Israel’s Shin Bet security service.

The French Embassy in Tel Aviv said Monday morning it would issue a statement, but had not commented by mid-afternoon. An embassy official was quoted in Israel’s Ynet as saying that the case was being taken very seriously.

Motivated by the payment he received, Franck smuggled weapons on five separate occasions in recent months, using a diplomatic car to avoid security checks, prosecutors said in a statement. The Shin Bet said he transported 70 pistols and two assault rifles. Franck’s bosses in the French mission are not believed to have known of his actions, the Shin Bet said.

Franck received the weapons from a Palestinian man who worked for the French Cultural Center in Gaza, and delivered them to a West Bank contact who sold them to arms dealers, prosecutors said.

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