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.

The 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.

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