Thousands of Israelis, including government ministers, marched towards the evacuated outpost of Evyatar in the occupied West Bank on Monday to support settlement expansion, as tensions mounted between Israelis and Palestinians.
Waving Israeli flags and chanting religious slogans and songs, Israelis from across the country marched towards the outpost, as a Palestinian counter-protest was held nearby. The Palestinian red Crescent said 191 Palestinians were injured in the counter-protest.
“I’m here to help support the demand for the legalization of the Evyatar outpost as was promised as part of the coalition agreements,” Shlomo Goren, 48, a Biologist from the central city of Bet Shemesh said.
“Now they understand why I have been pushing for the establishment of a national guard,” far-right security chief Itamar Ben-Gvir said, flanked by heavy guard, at the demonstration.
Israel last week authorized the creation of a national guard sought by Ben-Gvir to focus on Arab unrest, but held off on giving him direct command after political rivals voiced concern the force could become a sectarian “militia.”
A wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis has already claimed the lives of 19 Israelis and tourists since the start of the year.
The mother of two Israeli sisters who were killed last week in a shooting attack in the occupied West Bank has died of her wounds, hospital officials said on Monday.
“Tragic news that Leah Dee has also died following the abhorrent attacks in the West Bank,” UK foreign minister James Cleverly on Twitter. “There can be no justification for the murder of Leah and her two daughters, Maia and Rina.”
Israeli forces are still trying to track down the assailant down.
Several policies have been enacted by the new far-right Israeli government which support settlement recognition and expansion.
Last month, the Israeli parliament paved the way for Jewish settlers' return to four settlements in the West Bank by amending a 2005 law that ordered their evacuation, a move condemned by the Palestinian Authority and the European Union.
In February, Israel granted retroactive recognition to eight illegal West Bank outposts, also condemned by international organizations.
Since the 1967 war, Israel has established around 140 settlements on land Palestinians see as the core of a future state. Besides the authorized settlements, groups of settlers have built scores of outposts without government permission.
Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital - territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.
US-sponsored statehood talks have been stalled since 2014 while Jewish settlements have expanded, developments which Palestinians say have undermined the chances of a viable state being established.