A five-person gang of would-be thieves allegedly raided an ancient historical site in Israel over the weekend, apparently attempting to loot valuable relics and causing irreparable damage along the way.
The alleged thieves, all Palestinians from the West Bank town of Beit Ula, are suspected of sneaking into Israel from Judea and Samaria and vandalizing the site. The historical area can be traced back to the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt and is located in the Sha'ar HaGai (Bab El-Wad) area, along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway
A police investigation revealed that the gang was allegedly smuggled into Israel by an Israeli driver, which allowed them to bypass barriers and IDF roadblocks. The perpetrators are suspected of climbing up to the "convoy range," a small-scale ancient settlement site dating back to the 2nd century C.E. The site is located roughly 30 meters (98 feet) above the country's main highway.
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The thieves allegedly came armed with a sophisticated metal detector and an array of digging tools and equipment, and attempted to execute an amateur excavation in the hopes of unearthing historic coins and ancient underground hideouts. In the process, the perpetrators broke down ancient walls and destroyed buildings that are thousands of years old.
The Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit was able to apprehend part of the group and take them into custody.
The would-be thieves were taken to the local police station in Beit Shemesh for questioning. One of the suspects is expected to remain in custody and an indictment will likely be issued against him in the near future.
"We are talking about a most severe case. The bandits caused devastating and irreversible damage to the ancient site. The devastation caused was unrestricted and unprecedented, even for the relatively small size of the site," said Amir Ganor, director of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit on Sunday. "Unfortunately the site has been almost completely destroyed, Ganor added. "In one fell swoop, these bandits, with a blatant disregard and following a greedy quest for financial gain, managed to erase layers from our history."
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