A new Southern District police commander was appointed Monday, in a decision described by critics as a cynical use of the security situation to settle internal police accounts. In a joint statement, Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter announced the immediate appointment of Israel Police Investigations Head Cmdr. Yohanan Danino as Southern District commander. Danino was supposed to take over the post in the summer, but the appointment was brought forward "in light of the special situation in the South," Cohen and Dichter said. The former head of the Southern District, Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev, was summarily dismissed by Cohen in late August after turning down an offer of a study leave. Bar-Lev has since launched a High Court battle to challenge his firing, saying that there was no need for him to go on study leave as he already holds two degrees. The High Court asked the two sides to come to an agreement on their own, but that request has gotten no response. Bar-Lev is credited with significantly reducing crime in the South. His dismissal was viewed by some as a vindictive measure by Cohen. Cohen has denied there were any personal motives behind the dismissal, and charged Bar-Lev with undermining his authority by refusing to go on study leave. Cohen refused to comment on Danino's appointment on Monday during a visit to the Ashkelon Municipality's underground command and control room. Bar-Lev also refused to discuss the issue. The acting commander of the Southern District, Dep.-Cmdr. Danny Chen, was praised for his management of the district during the past five months.