Israeli high school students vandalized an ancient citadel in the coastal city of Ashdod during the Passover holiday this week.
The Israel Antiquities Authority on Wednesday said the 1,300-year-old citadel dating to the early Islamic period was defaced by colored paint leftover from a “paint party” thrown by a local high school. The damage is reversible, however, the IAA indicated.
Pictures of the party were uploaded to social media, allowing IAA investigators to identify the students responsible.
In a statement, IAA Chairman Yisrael Hasson said the students had 48 hours to come forward to authorities and clean the paint splatters off the citadel the walls, or else the IAA would press charges.
“If they do not take responsibility, we will have no choice but to press criminal charges and involve the police,” the statement said.
According to a report in Ynet, the Ashdod Municipality official called the incident “very grave” and said the city would “deal with the situation with all means at our disposal, including the issuing of fines to the people involved.”
“The municipal education supervisor and the school principal have already contacted the guilty parties and their parents and have made the gravity of their situation clear,” he said adding that the students would clean the site before the Passover holiday ends this weekend.
The Ashdod citadel, known in Hebrew as Ashdod Yam or Minat al-Qal’a in Arabic, was built by the Umayyad Caliphate between 685–705 CE, and later restored and reused by the Crusaders in the 12th century.
Remains from an earlier, 2,800-year-old Iron Age fortress are present at the site and were incorrectly identified by the IAA as those vandalized.