Thousands of Israelis led by at least seven cabinet ministers marched to Evyatar, an illegal settlement outpost in the northern Israeli-occupied West Bank that was evacuated by the previous Israeli government in 2021.
Monday’s march, which was led by hardline ultranationalist Jewish settlers, was seen by some as an indication that Israel’s most right-wing government in history is determined to accelerate settlement building on occupied lands despite international opposition.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – both settlers in the occupied West Bank – and at least 20 members of the Knesset were taking part in the march.
A 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli troops on the same day during an arrest raid near Jericho, about an hour south in the occupied West Bank.
The march threatened to further raise tensions heightened by days of unrest during which Israeli police attacked worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, and repeated violence by Israeli forces in recent months.
Thousands of Israeli police and army forces were reportedly deployed to secure the march, adding to an already combustible atmosphere that has accompanied the overlap of major Jewish and Muslim holy days.
Speaking at the march, Ben-Gvir said, “We are here to say that the Israeli nation is strong … we are here and will remain here.”
Daniella Weiss, a settler leader, told Kan public radio that the ministers’ participation in the march could be a “therapy for the government to free yourselves from the dictates of the US and Europe” concerning illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu’s government has made settlement expansion a top priority and already has advanced plans to build thousands of additional homes.