5 Druze Israelis arrested for smuggling weapons from West Bank

Suspects brought several caches of arms into Israeli territory after making deal with Palestinian citizen

Illustrative: A Border Police officer stands guard at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Israel Police)
Illustrative: A Border Police officer stands guard at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Israel Police)

Five Israelis from Druze communities in the north of the country were indicted Sunday for smuggling weapons from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in the West Bank into Israel.

According to the indictment filed by the Haifa District Prosecution, the group is made up of friends hailing from Daliyat al-Karmel and Isfiya, two Druze towns near the coastal city of Haifa.

The charge sheet details how the central suspect made an agreement with a Palestinian citizen, named in the indictment as “Abu Adham,” to bring weapons “from the Palestinian Authority into Israeli territory,” in return for an undisclosed sum of money.

Under that agreement, the suspects brought several caches of weapons into Israel earlier this month.

The weapons were then to be transferred to a resident of Shfaram, an Arab Israeli town in the north, whose identity was not known to the suspects.

Three of the suspects were arrested when they were caught with weapons in their car at a temporary checkpoint set up on Highway 6, the indictment said.

Employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem, Romain Franck, who is accused by Israel of running guns from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. (Shin Bet)

In a separate case, last week, Romain Franck, an employee at the French consulate in Jerusalem, was indicted, along with five residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, for using a diplomatic vehicle to smuggle dozens of guns from Gaza to the West Bank.

According to the indictment, Franck, 24, was aware of the reduced security checks for vehicles with diplomatic license plates, which he allegedly used to illegally transport weapons out of Gaza and into the West Bank.

He allegedly made five smuggling runs, bringing 70 pistols and two assault rifles to the West Bank from a Palestinian employee at the French Cultural Center in Gaza, Zuheir Abed Abdeen. A contact in the West Bank then sold the weapons to other arms dealers, investigators say.

Franck was allegedly paid several thousand shekels for each delivery, depending on the number of guns he carried across the border.

The Shin Bet security agency said Franck was motivated by financial gain and that his superiors at the French consulate in Jerusalem were unaware of his actions. He was arrested on February 15, but the case only became public a week ago, on March 18.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced the “very serious” arms smuggling charges against Franck, but said the incident would not compromise diplomatic ties between the two countries.

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