Samaria Military Court sentences 3 men to 36 days in prison after they were caught damaging Sebastia, in northern West Bank

Three Palestinians were sent to 36 days in prison on Tuesday for damaging and attempting to rob a major archaeological site in the northern West Bank last month.

The men, whose names haven’t been released, were arrested at 1:00 a.m. on July 18 at the location of the ancient town of Sebastia, which contains overlapping layers of history dating back nearly 3,000 years.

They were caught by an inspector for the archaeology division of the Civil Administration, the Israeli body that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank, while carrying digging equipment and a metal detector. The site, just outside the city of Nablus, was found vandalized, Hebrew-language media reported.

A hilltop capital of biblical kings later ruled by Roman conquerors, crusaders, and Ottomans, Sebastia — also known nowadays as the Samaria National Park — is caught between conflicting Israeli and Palestinian jurisdictions, and the site has been largely neglected by both sides for the past two decades. Beyond the decay, unauthorized diggers and thieves have taken advantage of the lack of oversight to make off with priceless artifacts.