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As part of that project in Jabaliya, in the north of the coastal enclave, bulldozers were digging up the sandy soil in order to build new concrete buildings when Ahmad made his discovery.
“I notified the Egyptian foremen, who immediately contacted local authorities and asked the workers to stop,” said Ahmad, a Palestinian who preferred not to give his full name.
“In Gaza, a lot of sites have disappeared because of conflict and construction, but the territory is an immense archaeological site which needs many teams of experts,” he added.
Stakes and fences have been erected around the Roman necropolis, which is watched over constantly by guards as new buildings go up nearby.
“We are trying to fight antiquities trafficking,” said Jamal Abu Rida, director of the local archaeological service tasked with protecting the necropolis and which hopes to find investors for further excavation.
Since Hamas took control 15 years ago, Gaza has endured four wars and numerous escalations of tension.
“The image of Gaza is often associated with violence, but its history is bursting with archaeological treasures that need to be protected for future generations,” said Jihad Abu Hassan, director of the local Premiere Urgence mission.