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Israel bulldozes area around Beit Sahour family park

Feb. 10, 2010 6:18 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 11, 2010 7:59 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Israeli bulldozers prepared for the military take-over of a family recreation park in the town of Beit Sahour on Wednesday afternoon, preventing local journalists from accessing the area.

The park compound, in the map pictured, was a Jordanian army base taken over by Israel during the 1967 war and abandoned in 2006. Grants from governments including the United States helped turn the area into a family picnic area including a modest climbing wall and playbround for local residents.

In recent years Israeli settler groups had threatened to take over the space, and Israeli media outlets reported in January that the military intended to re-occupy the area.

Following the announcement, Beit Sahour residents - who own the land on and around which the Jordanian base was built - pledged to work the land and re-establish their presence there. Formerly adjacent to an Israeli military base, the land had fallen into disuse and was often declared a closed zone.

On lookers said a number of Israeli soldiers were patrolling the park area in the afternoon, while a military bulldozer cleared land. Residents and journalists were all told they could not approach the land, as it was a closed military zone.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was investigating the reports.

Local residents made the following video of Israeli work at the site:

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