2 French consulate staffers suspected of smuggling Hamas arms

French driver and Palestinian guard employed by the consulate in east Jerusalem arrested on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to transfer weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank.

Two employees of the French Consulate in east Jerusalem—a driver and his security guard—were arrested by Israeli authorities last month on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to smuggle weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank, the Shin Bet said Monday.

The consulate’s driver, Romain Franck, a French national, is suspected of using his diplomatic vehicle to transport some 70 handguns and two assault rifles.

A Palestinian guard employed by French authorities, a resident of east Jerusalem, was also arrested in the case, as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were staying in the West Bank illegally.

Franck was part of a Palestinian network in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem that smuggled weapons from Gaza to the West Bank through the Erez border crossing.

The French driver smuggled arms on several occasions over the past few months, while taking advantage of his diplomatic vehicle, which was subject to less stringent security checks at the crossing.

Franck received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of Gaza who works for the “French culture center” in the strip. Franck then took the arms to a Palestinian man in the West Bank, who in turn sold them to arms dealers.

The investigation found that Franck had a financial motive and was acting of his own volition and unbeknown to his superiors. The investigation also found that several of the Palestinians arrested in the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank.

The investigation was carried out in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and while keeping French authorities constantly updated.

A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case so far. Indictments will be filed against six of them on Monday.

The French embassy in Israel said on Monday it was cooperating with Israel in the investigation. “We take very seriously this case … and we work very closely with the Israeli authorities on this matter,” said an embassy spokesman, who declined to comment further on the allegations against the staffer, a French citizen.

According to his Facebook page, Franck, who is from Lambersart in the north of France, arrived in Jerusalem in January 2017. “It’s the big day, starting to a new adventure.. Thank you for everything that accompanied me and supported in this new experience that begins!” he wrote at the time.

Later he posted many photos from the region, including from Petra and Aqaba in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the Jordan Valley.

An Israeli official called the incident “very grave,” but clarified it would not affect Israel’s ties with France. “We thank French authorities for the cooperation,” he said.

A senior Shin Bet official decried the “cynical exploitation of the immunity and privileges granted to foreign representatives in Israel to smuggle weapons… that could be used in terror attacks against Israeli citizens and security forces.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, also slammed the “cynical and never-ending exploitation of humanitarian aid and international aid by the terrorist infrastructure.”

“This event only clarifies the need for a strict policy on granting (entry) permits,” he continued. “International bodies are required to carry out internal inspections to ensure aid goes to the residents of Gaza and not to terror.”

French lawmaker Meyer Habib, who represents French nationals living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first problematic affair the French Consulate in Jerusalem has been involved in. And even if only junior staff were involved, there is a feeling, unfortunately, that the consulate has actually become the French Embassy to the Palestinian Authority.”

The article was published on Ynet

IDF treats Gaza Arab shot by Hamas

Resident of Gaza crosses border after being shot by Hamas forces, IDF treats him. ‘Israel cares more for Palestinian life than Hamas does.’

A Palestinian Arab resident of the Gaza Strip crossed into Israel yesterday, Wednesday, after being shot by Hamas forces patrolling the border. Upon entering Israeli territory, he was treated by IDF soldiers.

COGAT (“Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories”) head Yoav Mordechai uploaded a post about the incident, addressing Gaza residents on COGAT’s Arabic Facebook page.

“Nothing simpler: a Palestinian passed the security fence from the Gaza strip into Israel today after Hamas forces shot him. IDF soldiers helped him – this is a purely humanitarian issue.

“The State of Israel and its army care for Palestinian life more than Hamas does, and this is the issue.

“The more you internalize it, people of Gaza, you will understand that Hamas has nothing to offer. You deserve more!”

On that note, Mordechai said, “It is time to remind you of an important fact, that two Israeli soldiers [Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul] and Israeli citizens held in the Gaza strip are also a humanitarian issue of paramount importance!”

The Alticle was published on Arutz 7

Israel said in talks with Egypt, EU in bid to avert Gaza electricity crisis

Government looking for ways to solve escalating situation, even as PM calls matter an ‘internal Palestinian dispute’ between Hamas, PA

Israel is in talks with Egypt and the European Union to head of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip amid an escalating dispute over electricity supply to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, according to a report on Wednesday.

Sources in Israel told the Israeli daily Haaretz that discussions were underway with Cairo and with European countries on ways to solve the power supply to the Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to distance Israel from the situation by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.

Egypt, meanwhile, which has tense relations with Hamas, has offered the terror group more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity, in exchange for it agreeing to a list of security demands, Arab media reported Tuesday.

The list of includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.

Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt. In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.

The Israeli cabinet decision would see a reduction of about 45 minutes to the amount of time every day during which Gaza receives electricity, Hebrew media reported.

Hamas responded to the decision by saying it would have “disastrous and dangerous” results that could lead to an outbreak of violence.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was not seeking a confrontation with Hamas.

“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony to launch a major housing construction drive in the central Israeli town of Be’er Yaakov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”

“In any case, I want to make it clear that Israel has no interest in an escalation [with Hamas] and any other speculation is wrong. But we have an interest in security, and our policy is clear on the subject of security and it won’t change,” he said.

The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.

Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

The enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.

Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.

According to Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit that administers civilian manners in the Palestinian territories, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.

After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.

The article was published on The Times of Israel