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Barak under heavy guard following settler threats

Dec. 29, 2009 9:13 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 30, 2009 4:32 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel has put Defense Minister Ehud Barak under heavy security out of concern that right-wing settlers could attempt to harm him, Israel’s Channel 2 television reported on Tuesday.

Settlers could attack Barak over his role in enforcing the a partial moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements, the report said. The minister recieved a threatening letter similar to those to Israeli Police Commissioner David Cohen last week.

The Israeli government declared the 10-month freeze, which does not apply to the greater Jerusalem area or construction that began earlier, in a gesture to the US, which wants renewed peace talks.

The move angered settlers, who saw it as an attack on them.

The director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service was quoted in the Channel 2 news report saying that settler extremists would try to sow chaos in order to disrupt enforcement of the freeze.

Earlier on Tuesday, a settler shot and injured a Palestinian shepherd near the settlement of Bat Ayin, north of Hebron. Witnesses and the Israeli military confirmed the incident.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Shin Bet was also investigating the source of a number of threats made against Police Commissioner David Cohen in recent days. Police believe that the threatening letters were sent to Cohen by angry settler activists.

"You have been marked for death," said a letter sent to Cohen, according to the newspaper. "Your day of judgment is near."
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