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In a display of what might be called ironic chutzpah, burglars broke into an Ashdod museum this week and stole silver coins from the Hellenistic period and other archaeological finds that were part of an exhibit called "Antiquities Thieves in Israel."

The exhibit, at the Korin Maman Museum, displayed artifacts that the Israel Antiquities Authority had previously recovered from antiquities thieves. Now it seems the authority will have to begin its hunt all over again.

The burglars neutralized the alarm system Tuesday night and stole a bronze spear, two gold earrings, some pottery and the silver coins, which feature the image of Alexander the Great.

"It's one of the weirdest things that ever happened here," said a museum employee. "Someone actually went and stole the robbers display."

The antiquities authority is already on the case.

Amir Ganor, head of its looting prevention unit, said the authority would be on the lookout to see if the stolen items show up on the market. Its previous experience with recovering the same artifacts may come in handy.

"The items are well known to us, and we have detailed photographs, which we will be publishing on our Web site," Ganor said.

A complaint has also been filed with the police.

David Ben Zino, a spokesman for the municipal company responsible for culture in Ashdod, said museum staff left the building at 8 P.M. Tuesday, after setting the alarm. "The break-in occurred later in the night, with the burglars breaking a glass cabinet and taking nearby exhibits," he said.