Right wing Israelis march from the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to the controversial West Bank area known as E1, on February 13, 2014
Right wing Israelis march from the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to the controversial West Bank area known as E1, on February 13, 2014 © Menahem Kahana - AFP
Right wing Israelis march from the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to the controversial West Bank area known as E1, on February 13, 2014
AFP
Last updated: February 13, 2014

Thousands of Israeli teen hardliners demand new settlement at sensitive West Bank site

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Thousands of young Israeli hardliners marched Thursday to demand the government build new settler homes in E1, a highly sensitive strip of West Bank land near Jerusalem.

Police said moe than 6,000 people, almost all of them teenagers, joined the march which began in Maaleh Adumim settlement and ended at E1 - an undeveloped stretch of land just to the west, which borders annexed east Jerusalem.

"Kerry = persona non grata," read one of the signs, referring to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently trying to coax Israel and the Palestinians towards a peace agreement.

Israel has been planning construction in E1 since the early 1990s but nothing has ever been built there due to heavy international pressure. Plans for building 1,200 units unveiled in December 2012 were quickly put on the back burner after the announcement triggered a major diplomatic backlash.

The Palestinians say construction in E1 would effectively cut the West Bank in two and prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

"We will keep (the) promise to build in E1," Housing Minister Uri Ariel told a crowd composed almost entirely of high-schoolers.

Last April, Ariel, who belongs to the far-right national religious Jewish Home party, pledged to build new apartments in E1 within 18 months.

In January 2013, a group of more than 200 Palestinian activists had set up a protest encampment called Bab al-Shams in E1 as a way of drawing attention to Israel's plans to settle there.

Israel and Palestinians began a nine-month track of direct peace talks at Kerry's urging in July 2013, but there has been little visible sign of progress.

Kerry, who has repeatedly come under fire from Israeli hardliners in recent weeks, is currently focusing his efforts on hammering out a framework agreement which would allow for the talks to be extended, likely until the end of the year.

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