Man drivers tractor on Israeli kibbutz
Man drivers tractor on Israeli kibbutzIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Police who hunted down a set of tractor thieves found more than they had hoped Thursday morning, when a raid in a Palestinian Authority (PA) Arab town turned up not only the stolen tractor they were looking for, but four others as well.

Police were on the trail of thieves who took two tractors in a violent robbery in March, in which attackers overpowered and tied up a security guard in the Israeli town of Shdemot Mehola.

They made off with two tractors, one of which they abandoned on the way out of town. That tractor was returned to its owner.

Over the months police gathered evidence linking the theft to a PA resident in the town of Teysar. On Thursday morning, officers and IDF soldiers raided a farm belonging to the suspect, and found the tractor that had been stolen in March.

But further investigation revealed that a total of five tractors at the scene had in fact been stolen from Israeli farmers.

Two PA resident men who were found sleeping on the farm were arrested and taken in for questioning. Police also found a gun and ammunition which apparently belonged to the men at the scene.

Tractors are a major investment for Israeli farmers; even older, used tractors often cost upward of 40,000 shekels (over $11,200).

Israeli farmers are often targeted by PA resident thieves, in what the Supreme Court has termed a “national plague” of agricultural theft. Thousands of incidents are reported each year, and farmers’ representatives say theft causes many millions of shekels in annual damage to Israel’s farm industry.

A judge warned last year that PA thieves targeting Israeli farms are increasingly forming organized crime rings, against which farmers’ means of self-defense are limited.