Despite recent storms in the Bethlehem area, protest was held at the site of the former military base of Osh Ghrab, east of the town of Beit Sahour. The protest resulted in a display of force from the Israeli military.

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Despite recent storms in the Bethlehem area, protest was held at the site of the former military base of Osh Ghrab, east of the town of Beit Sahour. The protest resulted in a display of force from the Israeli military.

On Sunday residents of the town of Beit Sahour were joined by Palestinians from the surrounding area of Bethlehem and internationals to protest the reoccupation of Osh Ghrab. The area of Osh Ghrab, the crow’s nest in English, was occupied by the Israeli military in 1967 following the 6 day war. In May 2006, the base was abandoned, with the privately owned land returned to it’s owners, and the public land being transformed into a recreational centre and park for the residents of the town.

A portion of the site remained under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military, defined zone C by the Oslo Accords, and has sat in a state of disrepair ever since, despite the attempts of residents and internationals to maintain the site.

Approximately two and half weeks ago, the Israeli military began construction of a watchtower at the site and declared it a closed military zone. Resident s of Beit Sahour remain concerned that this action will lead to the base being returned to it’s former state, and will pave the way for the construction of a new settlement in the area.

Settlers organizations have been holding rallies at the site and calling for the beginning of construction of a new settlement, to be named Shdema.

Today’s protest began at 11 a.m. With those in attendance scaling the hill and entering the area of the abandoned buildings. Once they arrived at the summit two Israeli military jeeps entered the area and informed protestors that they had 5 minutes to disperse. The majority of the protestors peacefully complied with this request, with a few members of the crowd remaining to engage the military in civil dialogue, including Dr. Mazin Qumsiya of the Popular Committee to Defend Osh Ghrab, and Palestinian MP, Mustafa Barghouti.

Despite this, the Israeli military began to fire concussion grenades, tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets at the retreating protesters causing them to flee.

In response to this act of aggression, a group of young men attending the protest began to throw stones in the direction of the soldiers. This was met with an increase in the use of tear gas and concussion grenades.

The protesters held their ground in the small track that passes from the main road to the park, but were surrounded by the Israeli military, who increased their numbers with another jeep, coming up the track to surround protestors. The newly arrived military personnel continued to fire tear gas at the protestors, forcing them to pass by the jeep to reach the main road.

Once the protesters were all on the main road, the military blockaded the entrance to site and continued to fire rubber coated steel bullets towards the protestors leaving the area. A stand off between the Israeli military and a group of young men continued for approximately 10 minutes before dispersing.

No injuries were reported, but dozens suffered from the effects of tear gas inhalation.

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