Itongadol.- The theft of antiquities was thwarted by a joint force of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Yehuda Regional Council border guard police late Tuesday evening in the Beit Shemesh area.
The team of thieves was discovered during a by IAA inspectors observing the site on Tuesday evening, digging and using a metal detector at the antiquities site next to Ta\’oz in the Beit Shemesh area.
The IAA inspectors alerted the border police and worked together to arrest the group of illegal diggers. When the suspects began to escape the area, a police helicopter identified and chased them. The border police arrested one suspect and knows the identity of the suspect who managed to flee the scene.
"Hovav Ruins is a legally declared antiquities site," stated IAA inspector Uzi Rotstein.
"The suspects took advantage of the unfortunate incident, during which the ruins were burned last Friday in the massive fire that raged in the region. The lack of vegetation and thorns revealed the secrets of the antiquities side and made it easier for the suspects to search with a metal detector for coins in the exposed ground," Rotstein explained.
According to the IAA, the suspects were found to be in possession of an off-rad vehicle, digging tools, and an advanced metal detector. The suspect who was caught, a resident of Ramle in his 50s, was also in possession of 63 antique coins from the Second Temple and Roman periods, some 2000 years old, that were stolen from the site.
The suspect was brought in for questioning at the Yehuda Regional Council police station and admitted to illegally digging at the site.
"Unfortunately, the activities of the suspects caused considerable damage to the site. They dug dozens of shallow pits, from which the ancient coins were looted while disturbing the archaeological strata, detaching the archaeological findings from their context and leading to a loss of valuable archaeological, historical, and cultural knowledge to the country\’s cultural heritage," said Rotstein.
The Hovav Ruins is an antiquities site that holds archaeological finds from as far back as the beginning of the Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago. Past discoveries at the site include important findings from the biblical times, such as a Hebrew stamp from the First Temple period.
The IAA\’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, stated that harming ancient sites is a criminal offense, punishable with up to five years in jail. The case against the suspects will be handed over in the coming days to the state prosecution to prepare indictments.