Stolen train tracks
Part of the two kilometers of stolen tracks. Photo by Eli Hershkowitz
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Over the last three years, thieves have stolen over two kilometers worth of train tracks laid along the route connecting Ashdod and the Rotenberg power station in Ashkelon.

The tracks, which have been in use since 1984, were laid to provide a railway route for coal-carrying cargo trains seeking to dock in Ashkelon. The train line was rendered obsolete four years ago, after a marine terminal was constructed to accommodate the power plant. According to local officials, that was when metal thieves began picking apart the tracks, leaving behind no remnants of the steel and iron that once lay there.

"Two years ago, I told the police that the tracks were being stolen," said Yossi Atiya, who heads security for the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. "One day I even spotted a truck driving up to the tracks to haul away the stolen metal. I took down the truck's license plate number and gave it to the police in Sderot. They called the train company and asked them to file a complaint, but nothing else was ever done."

"Over the last two months, I've once again seen people carrying away at least 12-meter-long slabs of metal on a number of occasions," Atiya said. "This is publicly owned property. Instead of Israel Railways selling the metal and investing the money elsewhere, people just come here and steal it."

"If the marine terminal comes under attack tomorrow, how will the coal get to the power station?" he asked. "We can't have a situation whereby anyone can just come and do whatever they want and steal pieces of the country's infrastructure without anybody doing anything about it."

The head of the regional council points an accusatory finger at both the police and at the management at Israel Railways.

"The fact that neither the police or the train company have responded to these thefts has led us to a situation in which large sums of money that had been invested in laying down the tracks have gone to waste," said council chief Yair Farjoun. "The metal thieves get their nerve to steal train tracks due to the inactivity of Israel Railways and the police. Reaction to these thefts needs to be immediate."

Israel Railways said in response that it is "doing everything in its power to do away with this phenomenon and is acting in conjunction with the police to locate the thieves."

The police did not comment on the matter.