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Monday, April 6, 2009

Israel eyes extra security for foreign minister who lives in West Bank

TEL AVIV — Israel's intelligence community has warned that the new foreign minister would be targeted by Palestinian insurgency groups.   

Security sources said the intelligence community has concluded that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would become a target of such groups as Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad. The sources said Lieberman's statements, regarded by Arabs as provocative, as well as his residency in the West Bank would garner assassination attempts.

"The fact that he lives in the West Bank makes him a much easier target than say if he lived in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem," a security source said.

[On April 4, Israeli border guards killed a Palestinian teenager who opened fire at a security base in Negev desert. Security sources said the high school student appeared to have been trained in the use of firearms.]

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Lieberman lives in the Jewish community of Nokdim, south of Bethlehem. A former minister, he has for years come under the protection of the Israel Security Agency, which drove Lieberman home in an armored vehicle.

The sources said Lieberman would spend his week in the foreign minister's residence in Jerusalem. But they said the foreign minister would seek to return home to Nokdim — surrounded by villages aligned with Hamas — for the weekend.

"The question is how do we improve security now?" the source asked. "Do we supply him with a convoy. Do we fly him home by helicopter?"

ISA has outsourced most protection assignments for ministers and other prominent Israelis. In 2007, the agency contracted Moked for VIP duties while ISA concentrated on protecting the prime minister.

The sources said ISA would require the employment of at least 250 guards to protect Israel's new 30-member Cabinet. They said any Cabinet minister, regardless of his importance, would be a target for insurgency groups.

"ISA plans to recruit a lot more people, mostly through private firms," the source said.

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