Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinian suspects early Monday morning over the alleged illegal trade of stolen antiquities in the northern West Bank.
The Israeli military liaison to the Palestinians said in a statement that its forces, along with Border Police, uncovered rare archaeological findings worth hundreds of thousands of shekels as well as weapons during its raid on the suspects’ homes in the villages of Burka, Hawara and Silat al-Daher.
Among the items recovered Monday were coins, titles and stone doors from the Roman and Byzantine periods, along with ancient tools from the Iron Age and the 7th Century.
Security forces arrested a prominent northern West Bank-based antiquities dealer several months ago, in what led to an undercover investigation that culminated with the overnight arrest.
“We will continue to act in order to protect the archaeological sites and natural treasures in Judea and Samaria and act against those who try to harm them,” said a statement from Feras Atila, who heads the Civil Administration unit within the COGAT military liaison office, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
According to the 1978 Antiquities Law, all antiquities discovered in Israel post-1978 are the property of the State of Israel. Anyone who finds an artifact must turn it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority within 15 days.
It is forbidden to trade in antiquities without receiving a license from the Culture Ministry or from the IAA. All antiquities shipped abroad must be registered and shipped through a licensed dealer. The IAA reserves the right to confiscate any item not registered.
Monday’s raid came a month after another bust by authorities in the northern Israeli city of Afula, where a local resident is suspected of illegal trade and illegally excavating antiquities at archaeological sites, causing untold damage, and the use of a metal detector to discover thousands of gold, silver and bronze coins.