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Israel Antiquities Authority Catches Looters Red-Handed

Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquity Authority Robbery Prevention Unit on 17 November, 2022

By Pesach Benson • 17 November, 2022


Jerusalem, 17 November, 2022 (TPS) — The Theft Prevention Unit of the Israeli Antiquities Authority caught three Bedouins red-handed destroying historical items at an archaeological site near Negev town of Rahat, the IAA announced on Wednesday.

The archaeological site of Horvat Maaravim, near Rahat, where there are ancient remains from the Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic, and Ottoman period, was being watched by the Israel Antiquities Authority. On Tuesday evening, suspicious figures were seen approaching the site, and entering the cave covering over the rock-hewn water well, located on the southern side of the site.

A Bedouin myth says that a treasure lies buried beneath the well.

The Israel Antiquities Authority Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit inspectors hurried to the site, and reached the cave entrance without being spotted, catching the robbers in the act of digging up the archaeological site.

The suspects, in their twenties, were arrested—with the assistance of Border Patrol Police and the security staff of the Rahat municipality—and they were taken for questioning during the night.

One of the looters was arrested in the past and charged for a similar offense in 2020, when he received a punishment on probation, of half a year imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 shekels.

Damaging an archaeological site is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

“After the summer heat, we witness an increase in antiquity robbing activities,” says Israel Antiquities Authority Director, Eli Escusido, “The Israel Antiquities Authority is busy combatting the phenomenon of antiquity theft day and night. The looters are motivated by money greed, and they rip the finds from their archaeological context, thus damaging the country’s heritage.”

According to Amir Ganor, Director of the Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit in the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It must be absolutely clear to the public that rumors of hidden treasures have no archaeological or historical basis. No treasure has been discovered to date, but irreparable damage has been done to the archaeological sites, undermining the possibility to reconstruct the history of all the peoples of this country.”

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