Palestinian gunmen from the militant wing of the Islamic group Hamas, carry equipment as they leave their position at the beginning of a cease fire near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, Thursday, June 19, 2008. Guns went quiet as a six-month truce between Israel and Gaza Strip militants took effect early Thursday, marred only by widespread skepticism about its ability to hold. The cease-fire, which Egypt labored for months to conclude, aims to bring an end to a year of fighting that has killed seven Israelis and more than 400 Palestinians many of them civilians since the Islamic militant group Hamas wrested control of Gaza a year ago. (AP Photo/Wissam Nassar, MaanImages)
LONDON (AP) -- Two local staff members at the U.K. consulate in Jerusalem have been arrested by Israeli authorities on suspicion of selling weapons to Hamas militants, officials said Monday.
The arrests come after Israel's Shin Bet security service on Sunday disclosed that two alleged Hamas militants operating in east Jerusalem were arrested in November and indicted for buying weapons and planning to carry out attacks. Three other men were charged with arms dealing in the same case, according to a statement from the Shin Bet.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said Monday he believes the two British consulate employees are linked to the Hamas plot. Amir Ofek said the two men are being investigated for trying to buy or sell weapons to possibly be used in a later attack and that more information should be available shortly.
"We are trying to figure out exactly what was their relation to this group of Hamas activists," Ofek said.
Israeli authorities have told British officials that the arrests are unrelated to the maintenance men's work at the consulate, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said.
The spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity as per departmental protocol, said the men were arrested last month. He added the two were local hires, not British nationals, and that the U.K. is awaiting confirmation of their nationalities.
He added that Britain has confidence in the vetting process for all its employees at consulates and embassies, which is under constant review. He said "events like these" arrests will be looked at as part of the continual review.