Antiquities Authority anti-theft officers and police from the Kiryat Gat station
arrested a man on Sunday from Moshav Sde Moshe suspected of stealing antiquities
from archeological sites in the Lachish region.
A few months earlier,
Antiquities Authority enforcement officials caught him with a metal detector
digging illegally in an archeological site, and they began to perform
surveillance on him.
On Sunday, they arrived at his house backed up by
Kiryat Gat police to execute a search warrant. During the sweep of the house
they found a number of relics including ancient coins and candle holders, as
well as metal tools used for excavating.
They said they also found some
documents indicating that he had been dealing in antiquities.
43-year-old man could now potentially face charges of damaging an archeological
site and dealing in antiquities.
The arrest came two days after
Antiquities Authority enforcement officials caught three men, two from Beit
Lehem and one from Kfar Nahalin, illegally digging in an archeological site in Eila
Valley, near Beit Shemesh.
According to enforcement officials, the
antiquities theft industry is a highly lucrative multi-million dollar illicit
business involving illegal excavators, dealers and collectors working in Israel,
the West Bank and abroad.
The most highly-skilled excavators come from
villages in the South Hebron Hills, where generations have made a living
illegally excavating antiquities from archeological sites within the Green Line.
They search for all types of relics, but particularly coins from the Bar-Kochba
era, which can fetch thousands of dollars from collectors abroad.