Israeli settlers begin protest march to Jerusalem

AFP , Monday 4 Jun 2012

Around 400 flag-waving demonstrators join a march from a West Bank outpost to Jerusalem to protest a High Court ruling stipulating the raze of five homes built on private Palestinian land

Jewish settlers hold Israeli flags as they march near the Ulpana neighbourhood of the Beit El settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Israel's Supreme Court ruled five buildings had been illegally built June 4, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of young settlers began marching from a West Bank outpost to Jerusalem on Monday to protest against plans to raze five homes built on private Palestinian land.

Around 400 flag-waving demonstrators joined the march, which began at the so-called Ulpana neighbourhood on the edge of the Beit El settlement, and was to end in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, with a mass rally outside parliament planned for Wednesday, organisers said.

The High Court has ordered the government to demolish five buildings in Ulpana by 1 July, in a move which has sparked huge opposition from the settlers and their political backers in parliament.

The buildings are home to some 60 families, or around 250 people -- two-thirds of them children, settler officials say.

As the deadline approaches, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under increasing pressure from hardliners within his largely right-wing coalition who urgently want his backing for a law which would retroactively legalise the outpost ahead of July 1.

MPs are planning to present the bill to parliament on Wednesday, in a move firmly opposed by Netanyahu, who believes such legislation would spark an international backlash.

Many of the protesters on Monday's march were wearing T-shirts or carrying banners reading: "In support of the legalisation bill."

They began marching in the late morning and were expected to stay the night at Migron, the largest and oldest settlement outpost in the West Bank, which is also earmarked for evacuation by 1 August.

They are expected to reach the outskirts of Jerusalem by the early evening on Tuesday, and were to hold a mass rally outside parliament on Wednesday morning, organisers said.

"We know that we're only the tip of the iceberg," said Yoel Fatal, a resident of one of the five condemned buildings.

"We will work with all our strength to resolve this issue so people can sleep in peace at night," he told AFP.

Netanyahu has said he backs the idea of physically relocating the five buildings, moving them stone-by-stone to a new location, in a plan which is currently being examined by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

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