Israeli authorities arrested two antiquities thieves in the West Bank who were attempting to make off with artifacts dating back to the Byzantine era, the IDF’s Civil Administration said on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry agency — which oversees Israeli civilian activity in the West Bank — said that the two Palestinian suspects were arrested between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the settlement of Tekoa with three columns from a nearby Byzantine church inscribed with pseudo-Greek text in the back of their work truck.

The Civil Administration’s archaeological unit said an investigation into the incident has been opened.

Deputy head of the Civil Administration’s archaeological unit Benny Har Even said that the recent arrests showed the need for the Civil Administration to continue to take action against antiquities thieves.

“We will continue in the war on the history of Judea and Samaria with operations against antiquities thieves, who damage archaeological sites,” he said, referring to the West Bank in biblical terms.

Columns from a Byzantine-era church confiscated by the Civil Administration from suspected antiquities traffickers near the West Bank city of Bethlehem on July 10, 2017. (Civil Administration spokesperson)

Columns from a Byzantine-era church confiscated by the Civil Administration from suspected antiquities traffickers near the West Bank city of Bethlehem on July 10, 2017. (Civil Administration spokesperson)

In May, Dozens of ancient coins, oil lamps, jewelry and Jewish ritual objects were found in a police raid on a home in the village of Beit Ula, northwest of Hebron.

The stolen antiquities were valued at tens of thousands of dollars, according to officials.

Police detained the homeowner, a Palestinian man in his 50s.

Archaeologists who examined the cache said the antiquities were from a broad cross-section of historical periods, from Hellenistic to Roman and Byzantine times, and into the Middle Ages.