In an operation which took place over the course of several days and included a number of nighttime surveillances and ambushes, inspectors of the Antiquities Authority succeeded in detaining eight suspects who conducted illicit excavations at a declared archaeological site in Modi‘in. The suspects caused irreversible damage to the remains of a Byzantine church and refuge complexes dating to the Second Temple period. The suspects possessed numerous excavating tools and a metal detector. Two of the eight suspects, all residents of the village of Zurif, located beyond the Green Line, had previously been caught and served prison sentences for similar offences; they are currently facing suspended sentences for those offenses. The suspects were arrested and brought to the Modi’in police station where they were questioned by inspectors of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquity Robbery. During their interrogation they claimed that they are construction workers illegally employed at building sites in Modi’in and they use the underground complexes for hiding. In the morning the suspects were brought to the Jerusalem courthouse and remanded to custody.
The director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquity Robbery, Amir Ganor, reports that a significant increase in antiquity looting in the Modi’in region has recently been noted, due to the illegal employment of hundreds of Palestinian construction workers in building projects in the area.