Israel's far-right ministers march through West Bank after deadly raid

Teenager was earlier killed by Israeli forces

Israeli settlers march towards the outpost of Evyatar in the occupied West Bank on Monday. AFP
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Far-right ministers from Israel's coalition government marched through the West Bank on Monday, hours after raids by Israeli military in the area left at least one person dead.

A footage of the march showed some high-profile ministers being criticised by members of the crowd over their perceived inaction at guaranteeing security for Israeli settlers in the region.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and five other far-right ministers joined hundreds of marching Israelis in a highly provocative move. Israeli public broadcaster Kan said that more than 17,000 people participated.

“We will not surrender to terrorism, not in Evyatar, not in Tel Aviv,” Mr Ben-Gvir told the crowd.

“If you surrender to terror you’ll surrender everywhere but we are here in order to say ‘the Jewish people are strong,’” he said.

A White House official told The National that the march “provocative” and “unhelpful”.

“Such provocative actions are unhelpful and impede the restoration of calm,” the White House National Security Council official said on Monday.

“It is imperative now more than ever that Israelis and Palestinians work together to de-escalate tensions. We call for restraint, co-ordination and calm during this holiday season.”

The US State Department condemned the violence and called on Israel and the Palestinian leadership to avoid steps that would further heighten tension.

“It is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that incite tensions that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said during a regular news conference on Monday.

“And that, of course, includes annexation of territory, evictions, demolitions, violence against civilians, violence against journalists, incitement to violence, and things of that nature.”

In a video circulated on social media, an Israeli father on the march was recorded shouting criticism at the Mr Ben-Gvir for not doing enough to protect Israelis.

The decision to let the march go ahead drew heavy criticism across the country, with Israeli outlet Haaretz claiming that an entire battalion had to be deployed to protect it, at a time when Israel is dealing with a particularly high number of threats.

Palestinian counter-demonstrators clashed with Israeli soldiers protecting the marchers, leading to more than 100 Palestinians being wounded, according to the Red Crescent.

The West Bank march comes shortly after a new poll showed plummeting support for the right-wing government, which is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Likud slump in polls

The survey by Israeli network Channel 12 says that Mr Netanyahu's Likud party would lose 12 seats in an election today, a drop that the party has not seen in almost two decades.

Coalition partners would also lose a large number of seats, including in the Religious Zionism bloc led by Mr Ben-Gvir and Mr Smotrich.

Channel 12 predicts this collapse in support would leave the government with a total of just 46 seats, significantly below the 61 required to secure a majority.

Tensions have spiked in the West Bank following the killing of two British-Israeli sisters in the Jordan Valley on Friday. Their mother, who was also attacked, died from her wounds on Monday.

Following the news, Israeli President Isaac Herzog released a statement, saying: “How much we hoped, how much we prayed, but tragically Leah, mother of Rina and Maia of blessed memory, who was fatally wounded in the terror attack in the Jordan Valley, has died of her injuries.

“On behalf of the entire people of Israel, I send my warmest condolences to the Dee family and pray that they will know no more sorrow. May her memory be a blessing.”

Later that night, an Italian tourist was killed and seven others injured during a car ramming attack next to a beach in Tel Aviv.

At anti-government protests the following evening, demonstrators hoisted two large Italian and British flags in a show of solidarity with the victims.

Palestinian deaths

Monday's settler rally through the West Bank came hours after raids by the Israeli army in the area left at least one person dead.

On Monday, a Palestinian teenager was killed in the raids near the occupied West Bank city of Jericho, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Israeli army said it was operating in the nearby Aqabet Jabr refugee camp on Monday, without releasing more details of the Palestinian's death.

The operation comes after two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured after being fired upon near the flashpoint city of Nablus overnight.

The army said the gunfire started after their forces arrested a wanted Palestinian.

Tensions are escalating regionally after rockets were launched at Israel from Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip towards the end of last week, with Israel also launching barrages against all three.

Footage of Israeli forces beating worshippers in Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem last week has drawn widespread international condemnation.

At least 90 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year. Attacks by Palestinian militants have killed 18.

Updated: April 10, 2023, 7:25 PM