Hundreds of young settlers began marching from a West Bank outpost to Jerusalem on Monday to protest over plans to raze five homes built on private Palestinian land.
Around 300 flag-waving demonstrators joined the march, which began at the so-called Ulpana neighbourhood on the edge of the Beit El settlement, and was expected to end in Jerusalem on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
The High Court has ordered the government to demolish five buildings in Ulpana by July 1 in a move which has sparked huge opposition from the settlers and their political backers in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset.
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.”
Marchers were expected to spend the night at another West Bank settlement before starting the second leg of their walk to Jerusalem on Tuesday.
“A third of Beit El has the same status as us — 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, which are home to around 30 families, in a plan which is currently being examined by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.