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Israel steps up security for leaders, to prevent violence from extremists

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JERUSALEM, Aug. 30 (JTA) — Security around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has increased in the wake of death threats from right-wing extremists opposed to his ceding any more of the West Bank to the Palestinians. Taking the threats seriously, the premier has begun wearing a bulletproof vest and is limiting his public appearances, according to Israeli media reports. The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, has also beefed up protection for other top Israeli officials, including President Ezer Weizman and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. Netanyahu’s spokesman, David Bar-Illan, cited the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as a reason for taking the threats seriously. Jewish extremists in the West Bank town of Hebron are among those being questioned by the Shin Bet for allegedly being behind some of the threats. Tensions involving Hebron’s Jewish settlers have increased after a rabbi was slain in his mobile home there Aug. 20 by a suspected Palestinian intruder. On Sunday, Israel lifted a 24-hour curfew on Palestinians living in the Israeli- controlled part of Hebron. The curfew, which affected some 30,000 Palestinians, was imposed after the slaying of Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan. Israel lifted a closure on travel to and from Hebron last Friday. There is also growing concern among security officials that right-wing extremists may try to sabotage Islamic sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to create a crisis with the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Shaul Yahalom of the National Religious Party demanded at Sunday’s weekly Cabinet session that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations be suspended entirely until the Palestinian Authority cracks down on terrorists. Netanyahu responded with some unusually positive words about the self-rule government: Contrary to the situation in the past, he said, there is now no evidence of cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas militants.

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