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French consulate worker arrested for smuggling arms to Palestinians

By Sara Shayanian
French consulate worker arrested for smuggling arms to Palestinians
Palestinian fighters hold weapons during a funeral in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, on October 31, 2017. A worker at the French consulate in Jerusalem has been arrested for smuggling dozens of small arms to Palestinians in the West Bank, Israeli officials said Monday. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

March 19 (UPI) -- An employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem has been arrested and charged with smuggling more than 70 firearms from Gaza to Palestinians in the West Bank.

Romain Franck was identified by Israel's Shin Bet security service as playing a role in the Palestinian gun-running ring. He is accused of using a consular vehicle to elude security checks and transfer dozens of pistols and two assault rifles to the occupied West Bank.

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"This is a very serious incident in which the privileges and immunity granted to foreign missions in Israel were cynically exploited to smuggle dozens of weapons that could be used in terror attacks," Shin Bet said.

Shin Bet said Franck, 23, "acted for financial profit, on his own initiative and without the knowledge of his superiors." He is not believed to have ideological motives for helping Palestinian militants.

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"International officials need to put their own houses in order to assure that assistance is provided to the residents of Gaza rather than terrorism from Gaza," Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, said.

"Terrorist organizations in the strip don't abhor any channel, even if it is meant to provide medical or international assistance to exploit their needs. Again and again, we see that the good of the population of the Gaza Strip does not interest the terrorist organizations at all."

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It is unclear what level of diplomatic immunity Franck might hold. His level of immunity would determine whether he is tried in Israel or extradited to France.

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Nine others have been arrested in association with the arms smuggling operation, officials said, including a Palestinian security guard who also worked at the French consulate.

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