France Demands List of Israeli Firms Selling Arms to Ivory Coast

Yossi Melman
Haaretz Correspondent
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Yossi Melman
Haaretz Correspondent

The French government has demanded that Israel provide information on companies selling arms to the Ivory Coast, where a civil war is now raging. The demand, which indirectly places responsibility on Israeli companies for the death of French soldiers on a peace-keeping mission, was apparently raised by the French Embassy's military attache or a representative of its intelligence agencies in talks with Defense Ministry officials.

A source in the Defense Ministry confirmed receipt of the demand, but refused to discuss its content, which was apparently conveyed to Yehiel Horev, the Defense Ministry's chief of security.

The French Embassy refused to comment on the matter.

About three months ago, as reported in Haaretz, the French government asked the Foreign and Defense ministries to stop exporting weapons from Israel to the Ivory Coast. Defense Ministry director general Amos Yaron subsequently ordered a freeze on the supply of weapons to the Ivory Coast by Israeli companies.

According to the Haaretz report, among the Israeli companies involved in weapons sales to the Ivory Coast were Aeronautics Defense Systems, which sold drones and sent personnel to maintain them. Arms dealer Moshe Rothschild sold aircraft, parts and ammunition purchased in Eastern Europe; and businessman Hezi Betzalel sold surveillance systems manufactured by the Israeli company, Verint Systems.

The French say the soldiers where killed when drones and surveillance systems assisted the Ivory Coast air force in attacking a base where they were stationed. The Ivory Coast government said the attack had been directed at rebel forces. In a reprisal, however, the French air force destroyed the Ivory Coast aircraft, hit the drones and destroyed the intelligence center operated by the Israeli systems.

The companies involved told the Defense Ministry the equipment was supplied long before the events in question, and they did not view themselves responsible for the deaths of the French soldiers.



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