20 Arabs from West Bank indicted in largest agricultural theft in decades

The suspects allegedly entered Israeli moshav to steal 31 tons of grapes and tomatoes.

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October 31, 2017 00:27
1 minute read.
Police arrest Palestinian trespassers on Moshav Shekef

Police arrest Palestinian trespassers on Moshav Shekef. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

 
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Less than 10 days after 67 Palestinians, including 40 minors, were arrested in what police deemed one of the largest agricultural heists in decades, 20 of the suspects have been indicted for stealing more than 30 tons of produce.

On October 21, a Shabbat, Arab residents of the West Bank village of Beit Awwa were found in possession of 24 tons of grapes and seven tons of tomatoes stolen from Moshav Shekef in the Lachish region, near the West Bank security barrier.

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They had intended to sell the goods on the black market.

According to police, the suspects, including dozens of women and children, illegally entered the area with crates and baskets by crossing the security barrier. A resident of the moshav told YNet the suspects “waded through water five and a half meters high and entered the greenhouses and vineyards.”

“They took advantage of the fact that there are no workers here on Saturday and destroyed the greenhouses,” he added.

According to the indictment, the defendants caused NIS 300,000 in damages to the vineyards and tomato plots by breaking the greenhouses walls, destroying equipment, cutting through insect nets and ruining new crops.

Following the arrests, the Southern District Attorney’s Office filed a request to remand the suspects pending an ongoing investigation.

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“The actions of the defendants, who spent hours in Israel in broad daylight, stole agricultural produce worth hundreds of thousands of shekels and caused extensive damage – with the help of minors and women – are a testament to their insolence and raises the fear similar acts will be perpetrated,” the indictment states.

“They were organized, planned their actions and worked systematically,” it added.

The defendants are being charged with multiple crimes, including illegally entering Israel, trespassing, malicious damage of property and theft under aggravated circumstances.

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