Arabs use backhoe loader in attempt to loot archaeological site.

On Tuesday afternoon an off-duty Border Police volunteer noticed a backhoe loader working on fields near the Golani Interchange.

The volunteer knew the area well, and knew the field in question was part of the Horvat Mishkena archaeological site, and had been a Jewish village during the Roman period.

He immediately called in supervisors from the Israel Antiquities Authority's Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, as well as police and Border Police. The units arrived with the equipment necessary for the capture and arrest of the suspects.

When the preparations had been completed, the forces entered the area while recording their findings and the suspects' movements. They then arrested five suspects from the northern Arab town of Tur'an.

The suspects, three adults and two minors, were transferred to the Antiquities Authority for questioning. The backhoe loader was confiscated.

Hashalom Court in Tiberias extended three of the suspects' arrest until Thursday.

Israel Police said, "The alertness of the off-duty Border Police officer led to the suspects' arrest and prevented the site from being looted. The suspects and their backhoe loader caused a great deal of damage. Israel Police will work diligently against anyone who destroys Israel's natural treasures or heritage."

Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery Northern Division Head Nir Distalfeld said, "In recent months, we have caught several cells attempting to loot the Horvat Mishkena archaeological site, apparently because they heard false rumors about a treasure. These rumors have no basis.

"In recent months, we have caught 14 suspects who are suspected of looting antiquities. We work hard to protect the sites which we know to be exposed to thievery and destruction. We will continue investing efforts in protecting Israel's historical and archaeological sites."