By TPS • 4 May, 2020
Armed Palestinian Authority (PA) policemen on Monday arrested a group of Israelis, including two archeologists, at an archeological site in northern Samaria, in an area under full Israeli jurisdiction and in contravention of the peace accords.
Shomrim Al Hanetzach (Preserving the Eternal), an organization dedicated to the preservation of archaeological and historical sites in Judea and Samaria, has recently carried out a mapping project of ancient sites suffering from illegal pirate excavations, looting and severe damage to artifacts.
This project was launched after President Donald Trump unveiled his Deal of the Century peace plan, which led to massive damage at over 100 antiquities sites.
The situation was further aggravated by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, when 70% of the Civil Administration’s Archeology Inspection Unit was put on leave.
Eitan Melet, Field Coordinator for Shomrim Al Hanetzach, set out Monday morning with two archaeologists to the Tel Parsin site in northern Samaria, in Area C and under full Israeli jurisdiction, to inspect and document damage to the site.
The site, which is a five-minute drive from the Israeli community of Hermesh, preserves the biblical name Parash and the Talmudic name Kfar Parshai.
The site contains the remains of a large settlement that existed for centuries almost continuously from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period.
The remains include a mikveh, ritual bath, that was excavated during the Second Temple period and remained in use until the Byzantine period, burial caves, an oil press cave, various underground systems, and impressive Ottoman-era structures.
The team of archaeologists was surprised to encounter a PA police checkpoint in an area under full Israeli control, where PA police are not permitted to operate or bear arms.
“The Palestinian Police officers demanded that we get our of our vehicles, and we refused,” says Melet. “These were unpleasant moments, but the situation was more infuriating than frightening.”
The policemen, armed with assault rifles, took their ID cars and personal weapons.
After contacting the IDF, and with the mediation of Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, the PA policemen decided to hand them over to the IDF at the nearby Dotan checkpoint.
“The city of Parash has never been excavated by archaeologists – but it has been thoroughly and aggressively excavated by local Arab looters and grave-robbers because the State of Israel does not take responsibility,” Melet stated.
“To me, this is the flip side of the coin of Palestinian Police operating, fully armed, in areas that are clearly and unarguably under Israeli jurisdiction. We urge the Israeli government to formulate a plan of action that will protect our heritage sites,” he demanded.
Shomrim Al Hanetzach has noted that the phenomenon of antiquity destruction is pervasive and affects all sites that are not under permanent preservation, and a survey of the sites in Judea and Samaria shows that a staggering 95% of the archeological sites have been robbed, vandalized or disturbed.