A 24-year-old employee at the French Consulate in Jerusalem admitted that he smuggled dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank through diplomatic vehicles, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Sunday. Israeli security sources have confirmed the existence of the case.
The employee was a driver and carried an official passport. He was detained for questioning by Israeli security authorities on February 19. A security guard at the embassy was also arrested. The two will stand trial on Monday, most likely in a Be’er Sheva court, for smuggling weapons from Gaza to the West Bank.
The case was reported on extensively on Sunday in the French press but a gag order was imposed on coverage of it in Israel, even though the relevant agencies in Israel, including the Shin Bet security service and the Foreign Ministry, had already worked on a press release on matter.
– Le Figaro tweet
Un agent du consulat français à Jérusalem soupçonné de trafic d’armes https://t.co/Qi0KlLX7Om
— Le Figaro (@Le_Figaro) March 18, 2018
Le Figaro tweet
This is not the first time that a security-related case has been banned from publication while it was reported on extensively abroad.
One high-profile example was the case of a man identified as Prisoner X on an Australian website, which was only reported later in Israel following the lifting of the gag order.
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The French Embassy issued a statement saying: "The authorities in France are taking the incident in which one if the workers at the consulate general of France in Jerusalem is a suspect with very great seriousness. The authorities in France are cooperating with Israeli authorities."
Israeli diplomatic officials called the matter "a very difficult event, which we take very seriously." They added that relations with France are excellent and this will not have an adverse effect, thanking French authorities for their cooperation.
The affair takes place days before French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is slated to arrive in Israel, amid the backdrop of a potential visit from French President Emmanuel Macron later this fall. This affair may overshadow the visit.