Border Police officers on Saturday night foiled an attempt to steal dozens of tons of produce from greenhouses in Shekef, a moshav (agricultural village) in south-central Israel.
67 illegal Palestinian Arab infiltrators, residents of the Palestinian Authority - 40 minors and 27 adults - are suspected of working for several hours to steal tons of grapes and tomatoes from Shekef's greenhouses and transferring the produce to markets in the Palestinian Authority before being intercepted by police.
Border Police investigators estimate that 20-24 tons of grapes and 5-7 tons of tomatoes were harvested by the thieves, who attempted to escape with them.
The Arabs, all from the town of Beit Awwa in the Hevron Governorate of the Palestinian Authority, had harvested the produce and placed it in boxes and buckets to be transferred via several vehicles parked and waiting nearby on the other side of the security fence. From there, the produce was taken to Beit Awwa to be sold in the local marketplace.
Shekef and Beit Awwa are located a short distance from each other, but on opposite sides of Israel's security fence.
In addition to the large amount of produce which was stolen, the suspects damaged the greenhouses and agricultural property. Investigators believe this was done with intent, to cause destruction and greater damage.
Border Police confiscated four vehicles used by the group, and took the twenty-seven adults for interrogation. The minors were brought to Beit Awwa and released.
Border Police are currently gathering findings, proof and testimonies, in order to present a full picture of the damage caused and the amount of stolen produce.
They are also investigating how the Arabs managed to cross the security fence and enter Shekef. The thieves took advantage of the Jewish Sabbath, knowing there would be no workers in the greenhouses.
"This was an important operation involving dozens of Arabs," a Border Police spokesperson said. "This seems to be one of the largest thefts occurring in Israel's south during the past few years, and it was foiled by security forces. We are investigating the evidence against these criminals, in order to bring them to justice."
Earlier this month, three Bedouin stole 250 kilograms of grapes from a Jewish vineyard and beat the vineyard's guard. The thieves were later apprehended.