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Israel army: No plans to damage park in Beit Sahour

Feb. 12, 2010 5:50 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 13, 2010 12:09 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Following three days of military work on a hill overlooking a family park compound in Beit Sahour, an Israeli army spokeswoman assured that no damage would come to Palestinian structures on the land.

The Beit Sahour family park, was a Jordanian military base known as Oush Gharab until 1967, when it was taken over by the Israeli army and abandoned in 2006. Since that time it was converted into a family park with a playgound, climbing wall and barbecue area with funds from international donors including USAID.

In 2008, Israeli settlers laid claim to the land, gathering on the site a few Saturdays a year. Local residents called the visits intimidating.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers and a bulldozer entered the park compound and began leveling ground and destroying old military outpost structures. The area was declared a closed military zone and access was prohibited to land owners and journalists.

Contacted over the issue, the Israeli army confirmed that its Central Command office "decided to establish a guard post near the village of Beit Sahour, to ensure safety and order in the area."

The statement continued, saying "It is important to emphasize that establishing the guard post will not damage Palestinian structures in the area."

It was not clear whether the area would continue to operate as a closed military zone, and whether residents of the Bethlehem area would be permitted to continue enjoying the park.
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