Egyptian border guards arrested an Israeli citizen last week on suspicion he tried to smuggle weapons via the Taba border crossing. The Foreign Ministry is handling the situation.
According to Egyptian reports, the suspect, Muwad Zahalka was caught in possession of a Kalashnikov rifle, two guns and other ammunition hidden in a wooden box.
It was also reported that the border guard soldiers became suspicious when they noticed the wooden box. Nordin, a Kfar Qara resident in his 30s, denied the charges claiming he worked as a driver in a transport company. He said he was meant to meet a colleague who worked in the tourism business who allegedly waited from him on the other side of the border.
Another report suggested that Zahalka was asked to deliver the wooden box to a church in Sinai by a priest from Bethlehem who told him the box contained a cross. The priest explained he could not cross the border himself as he did not have the proper documentation.
The suspect's family gave a different version of the events. "We understand he bought items from Egypt and put them in his bag," one relative said. "When they searched the bus, weapons were found in his bag which someone must have planted there."
Later on Sunday other family members of the suspect claimed that Zahalka was manipulated by a monk from Bethlehem, who they say, asked him to carry a box containing crosses with him to Egypt when in fact it contained weapons.
One relative said that Zahalka runs a tourism office in Eilat and could not possibly have anything to do with arms smuggling.
"Muwad believed the monk so he didn’t check the contents of the box. He discovered the weapons only once the Egyptians opened the box. He was misled and ended up being arrested. We are doing everything in our power to get him out of there."
The family claims Zahalka is a normative person who had never been involved in such affairs. Former MK Nawaf Massalha is helping the family in efforts to release Zahalke.
Meanwhile, reports are surfacing regarding the impending release of Ilan Grapel
who is held in Egypt on espionage charges. On Saturday, al-Masry al-Youm reported that the Egyptian ambassador to Israel relayed the names of 81 prisoners to be freed by Israel in exchange for Grapel. According to the report, Ambassador Yasser Reda was appointed to coordinate the deal.
Ahuva Mamos, Ezra Arbelli, Elior Levy, Hassan Shaalan and Ronen Medzini