Local sources said that a large number of settlers invaded the area, and started preparing for what seems to be yet another “new settlement outpost”, in an attempt to push the Palestinians away, especially since a public recreation park has been set up by the Palestinians.
Ush Ghrab area is legally and officially Palestinian property, but the army and militant Israeli civilian groups are trying to confiscate it, and prevent the Palestinian from entering it.
In April 2006, the Israeli army unilaterally withdrew from their post at Ush Ghrab. Residents in the quiet residential neighborhood rejoiced; but short-lived joy turned to deep concern when Israel imposed a military control order for the entire area.
The Beit Sahour Municipality stepped in and successfully had the order lifted. Israel granted permits for the development of a community recreational park; but the application permits for a children’s hospital funded by Cure International had been repeatedly denied and plans for the hospital at Ush Ghrab had to be abandoned.
Construction of the “peace park” began that April. Shortly thereafter, Israeli protesters began to demonstrate against its existence and against the presence of Palestinians on “their land.”
In 2008 Women in Green, an Israeli settler organization, began to arrange activities in the area they call Shdema in preparation for the establishment of a Jewish settlement.
The group claims that Beit Sahour municipality is illegally building the community center on part of their “rightful Jewish land”. Knesset members Arieh Eldad and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdore Lieberman, who live in settlements supported settler efforts.
In spite of Israeli events held at the abandoned military buildings, off limits to Palestinians, then Prime Minister Salam Fayyad inaugurated the Ush Ghrab Park in 2008.
In October 2009, park construction materials purchased with a loan from USAID were confiscated by the Israeli military.
They were never returned. In January 2010, the park was vandalized: the Star of David, Hebrew writing and “Israel is Jewish” were spray painted over the park walls.
Shortly before March 2010, rumors circulated that another Jewish settlement was to be built on the former military site at Ush Ghrab. Local Palestinians feared re-occupation of the land Israel had agreed to turn over to the local municipality.
The army’s decision to allow illegal Israeli settlers to install a settlement outpost on city land used as a public park infuriated local residents.