Israeli settlers invade Osh Ghrab Public Park in Beit Sahour

Around 70 Israeli settlers invaded Osh Ghrab park in Beit Sahour Wednesday evening and forced international and local volunteers to stop the painting work that they were doing in the site.

Around 20 Palestinian and International volunteers were painting the place, which is an abandoned military base, when the settlers car came with four people in.  As soon as they saw the painting work, they left.  One hour later, the group of settlers came with their backbags, and said that this is an Israeli area that Palestinians are not allowed to be in.  They warned that everybody should leave in one minute.

The paintings the volunteers made included peace signs, love signs and a sign for a mock Falafel Kiosk, mock bookstore and a mock burger restaurant.

The volunteers who almost finished their work for the day decided to leave in order not to escalate the situation said Rianna, one of the organizers of the activity.

The settlers, who were mostly in their teens, started to paint over the murals, and to kick the painting buckets.  The Army arrived at the site but made no move to stop the settler provocation.

“The settlers told me 'do not stay with those people, they are Palestinians they will kill you',” said Andrew, one of the volunteers.

The settlers said they want to stay overnight whereas the soldiers said that they will allow the settlers to stay for one hour only.  According to the settlers e-mail communication an event is being prepared on Thursday by the settlers and people from a number of surrounding settlements are coming to the event.

The settlers were able to stay overnight and were not prohibited from doing so by the army. They tried to enter the Palestinian park several times in the night but were not successful. 

The painting action was organized by a number of organizations in Bethlehem area, including the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People, PAIDIA, Alternative Information Center (AIC) and Decolonizing Architecture in addition to a number of volunteers in Bethlehem area.

Osh Ghrab is the name of a hill located in the eastern side of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem.  The site itself was a Jordanian military base taken over by Israel in 1967 who kept it as an Israeli military base.

The Israeli army unilaterally abandoned the place in 2006.  The Beit Sahour municipality started to renovate the place and turned it into a public park for the local community in Bethlehem area.

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George Rishmawi

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