Thousands of rare antiquities recovered in unique pre-dawn raid

Complex months-long joint operation leads to arrest of antiquities thief

 Photo of some of the confiscated relics. (photo credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Photo of some of the confiscated relics.
(photo credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Thousands of rare antiquities were confiscated and a Palestinian antiquities dealer and thief was arrested in a complex pre-dawn operation in the Nablus area on Monday following a months-long undercover investigation and intelligence surveillance by the Civil Administration (COGAT).

Rare coins from among the oldest used in the Land of Israel, as well as relics from the Persian and Hellenistic periods and coins from the time of the Great Jewish Revolt were among the confiscated finds. They are estimated to have a value of hundreds of thousands of shekels.

The joint operation that took place in the village of Qalil near Nablus included forces from the Border Police, the Archaeology Unit of the Civil Administration, the Coordination and Liaison Administration for Nablus and the IDF.

The forces also confiscated equipment used by the suspect in the theft of the antiquities.

According to COGAT, the operation was part of the extensive efforts undertaken by the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit over recent years to preserve archaeological finds, and root out the theft of antiquities in the Judea and Samaria area with the help of advanced technology.

Several of the relics found in Nablus. (credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)Several of the relics found in Nablus. (credit: COGAT SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

“The Civil Administration is pursuing many avenues, both public and confidential, in order to preserve the archaeology of Judea and Samaria,” said Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Faris Atila. “Following a long and intricate operation, thousands of rare archaeological items that had been stolen by a specialist in archaeological theft were located. The operation was important, with significance in breaking the chain of traffic in antiquities in Judea and Samaria. The Civil Administration will continue working tirelessly against the shameful phenomenon of destruction and theft at the archaeological sites of Judea and Samaria, protecting the cultural and historical assets of the area.”

The antiquities dealer was arrested and transferred for further interrogation by investigators of the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit. An indictment against him is currently being drawn up and will be submitted to the military prosecution.

Sync of Benny Har-Even, deputy head of the Civil Administration's Archaeology Unit.