IS Militants Used Mustard Gas in Iraq (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
The government of Iraq's Kurdish region says several of its Peshmerga troops have tested positive for mustard gas after battles in August with Islamic State fighters.
It called on countries fighting the IS to give Peshmerga fighters equipment for protection against chemical attacks.
FBI Says It "Disrupted" Dozens of Potential Militants - Mark Hosenball (Reuters)
FBI counterterrorism investigators followed "dozens and dozens" of potential militants around the U.S. full time during the summer and "disrupted" many of them, FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee on Thursday.
Comey added that investigators are aware of dozens of U.S.-based Islamic militant suspects who now are using encrypted communications.
Pictures of Dead Israelis - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
Palestinian users of social networks Facebook and Twitter posted pictures from the scene of the murder of Israelis Naama and Eitam Henkin, the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on Oct. 2.
The operation was described as "heroic" and Palestinian "citizens expressed their joy over this event."
Iran's Post-Deal Economic Stagnation Challenges Rouhani - Patrick Clawson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
International and U.S. sanctions on Iran remain little changed until "Implementation Day," which is not until mid-2016, given its dependence on Iran completing a variety of not-necessarily-easy tasks.
Meanwhile, the oil price drop may well cost Iran more income than it will earn from sanctions relief.
The Tehran Stock Exchange index has fallen to 61,209 as of Oct. 6; it was 69,433 on July 14, the date the comprehensive nuclear deal was reached.
The writer is director of research at the Washington Institute.
Iran's Identity Crisis - Kim Ghattas (Foreign Policy)
On the flight from Istanbul to Imam Khomeini International Airport in August for a weeklong assignment for the BBC, I was struck by how few of the women were veiled.
By the time the plane landed, all the women had donned the veil - a reflection of the gap between the lives Iranians must lead inside their country and the life many of them would like to have.
For the only theocracy in the region, Iran seems much less overtly concerned with religion than its Sunni neighbors and the only country in the Middle East where people are more secular than their government.
Five days into my stay, I suddenly realized something was missing: the call to prayer. It echoes through all Arab cities, at varying decibels, five times a day. In Tehran, you hear the call to prayer once a week, on Friday at noon, and prayers are held at one central location: Tehran University.
Across the country, in every town and city, prayers are held in one designated mosque. Mosque attendance is low in Iran. In Tehran, a city of 12 million, there are roughly 10,000 loyalists who show up on Friday.
Israel's Submarine Fleet - Or Heller (Israel Defense)
The INS (Israeli Navy Submarine) Tanin, an AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) Dolphin-Class submarine, is the Navy's latest and most advanced.
The commander of this half a billion dollar, German-built submarine, which reached Israel in September 2014, is Lt.-Col. (Commander) Guy, 36, who for four years commanded the INS Leviathan submarine.
The IDF Navy's current estimates maintain that Lebanon and Syria do not possess the capability of spotting Israeli submarines at sea, but the Egyptians possess advanced submarine detection capabilities.
Bar Kokhba-Era Antiquities Site Razed by Palestinian Vandals - Efrat Forsher (Israel Hayom)
An antiquities site that served as an encampment for Jewish leader Shimon Bar Kokhba during his revolt against the Romans from 132 to 136 CE has been destroyed by Palestinian vandals.
The Kiryat Arabia site is located near the Arab village of al-Arub in Gush Etzion in the West Bank. In 1968, a winding, branching cave was discovered at the site, one of the caves where Bar Kokhba hid.
The cave was originally dug beneath the ancient community of Kiryat Arabia, which is mentioned in scrolls found at Nahal Hever in the Judean Desert. The scrolls include military correspondence between Bar Kokhba and his fighters.
The Kfar Etzion Field School recently resumed trips to the area and discovered the destruction of the site. The ancient structures were ruined, and the mouth of the cave was almost completely filled in.
Field school director Yaron Rosenthal said Thursday: "While the cultured world is appalled at the destruction of ancient cities in Iraq and Syria by [Islamic State], we are witnessing broad-scale destruction of antiquities in our country."
"Till Martyrdom Do Us Part" - Kevin Sullivan (Washington Post)
In Islamic State propaganda, life for women in the caliphate is filled with love, children and the joys of domestic life.
But the reality is often far more harsh for women who have moved there from the Arab world, Europe or the U.S., according to specialists who monitor Islamic State social media.
Those women, drawn by romantic notions of supporting revolutionaries and living in a state that exalts their religion, can quickly find themselves part of an institutionalized, near-assembly-line system to provide fighters with wives, sex and children.
And when their husbands are killed, they are expected to celebrate their "martyrdom" and then quickly marry other fighters.
According to interviews with women whose cities and towns have been overtaken by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the militants would use any pretext to detain women:
"They use the women prisoners for wives for the foreign fighters. If you go to prison, you are given away to God-only-knows who."
One woman described what happened to a neighbor's daughter, who had been jailed because her husband was a soldier in the Syrian army. "They told her, 'Either you marry a fighter, or we will cut off your head and hang it in the square.' So she married the fighter."
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- U.S. Officials: Russian Missiles Heading for Syria Landed in Iran - Barbara Starr and Jeremy Diamond
At least four missiles launched from a Russian ship in the Caspian Sea and aimed at targets in Syria crashed as they flew over Iran, two U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.
See also Russia's Cruise Missiles Raise the Stakes - Farzin Nadimi
The 3M-14T Kalibr NK land-attack cruise missile, with a maximum range of 2,500 km., offers extensive explosive power with great accuracy. The 3M-14T spends most of its flight path at subsonic speeds 15 meters above the surface, and makes a supersonic dash to the target in its final phase. Russian Defense Ministry sources claimed that targets were struck with an accuracy of 3 to 5 meters.
Wednesday's strikes are also a wakeup call for Iran, showing that Russia now has proven long-range land-attack systems that can reach anywhere in Iran or the Persian Gulf.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Gulf States Increase Arms to Syrian Rebels to Counter Russian Airstrikes - Tom Kutsch
Gulf Arab countries have ramped up their supply of weapons to Syrian rebel groups in response to Russia's escalating military support of President Assad, a Saudi government source revealed Thursday. Russia's military campaign in Syria "will almost certainly provoke counter-escalation by regional states - namely Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar - that remain absolutely committed to ensuring Assad's demise," wrote Julien Barnes-Dacey, a Middle East expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
- Leading Iran General Killed in Syria
Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Hossein Hamdani, who oversaw the operations of the Quds Force in Syria, was killed Wednesday in the fighting against ISIS, the guards announced Friday. Hamdani played a key role in the Iranian government's suppression of the Green Movement protests that rocked Iran in 2009 and 2010. He had been sanctioned by both the EU and the U.S. for "human rights violations." (NOW-Lebanon)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinian Stabs Four People in Tel Aviv - Yaniv Kubovich
Tair Abu Gazala, 19, from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqeb, stabbed four people in Tel Aviv near the Azrieli Mall on Thursday. The assailant stabbed a female soldier with a screwdriver, then stabbed a 60-year-old woman and a man and woman in their 40s, each one in the chest. An Israel Defense Forces soldier chased after him and shot him. (Ha'aretz)
See also Officer Who Shot Tel Aviv Terrorist: I Did What Is Expected of Every Soldier
The Israel Air Force officer who shot and killed the terrorist who perpetrated a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday said that he was "in the right place at the right time." "I saw a terrorist stab a soldier....I got out of the car, ran toward him and neutralized him from close range....I did what is expected of every fighter in the Air Force and the IDF," he said.
- Palestinian Stabs Israeli in Kiryat Arba
A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli man on Thursday in Kiryat Arba in the West Bank and then escaped.
See also Palestinian Stabs Israeli Policeman in Kiryat Arba - Elisha Ben Kimon
A Palestinian terrorist stabbed a police officer in Kiryat Arba on Friday. The attacker was shot.
- Palestinian Stabs Soldier in Afula
An IDF soldier was stabbed in Afula on Thursday by Tarak Yahya, 20, of Jenin in the West Bank. The terrorist was captured.
- Israeli Teen Stabbed in Jerusalem - Roi Yanovsky
A 15-year-old Israeli was stabbed in Jerusalem on Friday. The attacker was neutralized by security forces at the scene.
- Jewish Man Stabs 4 Arabs in Dimona; Prime Minister Netanyahu Strongly Condemns the Attack - Noa Shpigel
Three Palestinian construction workers and one Bedouin municipal worker were stabbed Friday morning in Dimona by a Jewish attacker. A Jewish resident of the town was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the incident. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemned the attack shortly thereafter, saying violence against innocent Arabs is unacceptable.
- Netanyahu: The Flames of Radical Islam Are Reaching Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at a press conference:
"We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism. Terrorists that have been incited and who are riven with hate are trying to attack our people - babies, children, men and women, civilians and soldiers....Israelis are acting with bravery, composure and determination to neutralize and eliminate the terrorists."
"This vicious terrorism did not start today. It has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its beginning. We have always known how to defeat the rioters and build up our country and so it will be now. The terrorists and the extremists behind them will achieve nothing. We will rebuff them and we will defeat them....We live in the Middle East and the flames of radical Islam, which are burning the entire region, are also reaching us. But Israel is a very strong country and Israelis are a strong people....We have a difficult situation now and we must show maximum alertness." (Prime Minister's Office)
- The Palestinian Victimhood Narrative as an Obstacle to Peace - Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
The speech delivered by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly last week was proof, once again, that the Palestinian "narrative" of victimhood has become a threat to any practical prospect for peace.
No mention can be made of the recent rise in Palestinian terror activities; no mention of the Palestinian decision to walk away from the framework advanced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; no word on Hamas' habitual shelling of Israeli civilian targets. There is also no mention of the collapse of all past peace efforts. In other words, all that the Palestinians have ever suffered is someone else's fault.
Any sober assessment of what it would take to strike an Israeli-Palestinian deal inevitably leads to the clear understanding that painful but practical political compromises are required from both sides. Alas, this concept seems alien to many in the region, particularly to Palestinians; and the international community is not doing its part to help the Palestinians mature towards this realization. Global actors that want to help achieve peace need to assist the Palestinians in moving beyond wallowing in self-pity and rituals of bashing Israel. The writer, former deputy chief of Israel's National Security Council, held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- Terror Attack Claimed by "Abd al-Qader al-Husseini Storm Troopers" - Pinhas Inbari
After Naama and Eitam Henkin were murdered in front of their children, a group from Fatah, the "Abd al-Qader al-Husseini Storm Troopers," issued a statement claiming responsibility, even though the murder was actually carried out by a Hamas terror cell. The group is named after Abd al-Qader al-Husseini, commander of the "Holy Jihad" troops of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in the days of the British Mandate.
In the struggle within Fatah to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, will the leadership that was in Tunisian exile with Arafat continue to hold the reins of power or will power be transferred to the Tanzim, Fatah's militant faction?
The claim by the al-Husseini forces is a sign that now it's the turn of Fatah activists from the West Bank to take the reins of power from the Tunis leadership. The writer formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Why Is Jaffa Being Attacked? - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Should anyone be shocked or surprised that Palestinian terrorism is hitting Jaffa, Petah Tikva and Kiryat Gat - all cities that have been part of Israel since its creation? Palestinian leaders are constantly indoctrinating their people with the message that Jaffa and all of Israel are also under "occupation," eventually to be "liberated" and come under Palestinian rule.
Official PA TV told children on May 23, 2015: "Jaffa, and not only Jaffa but also Haifa, Acre, Nazareth and all the Palestinian cities occupied in 1948 will return to us one day." For years, the PA has been transmitting this message.
A poll conducted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy last year found that 60% of Palestinians believe that the "five-year goal should be to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine." To the majority of Palestinians, there is no legitimate Israel and no legitimate Israelis. Every Israeli is a "settler" and every "settler" is a legitimate target. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Fatah Officials: Killing "Settlers" Is Legal and a "National Duty" - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
- How Obama Got to "Yes" on Iran: The Inside Story - Dennis Ross
When President Obama visited Israel in March 2013, Prime Minister Netanyahu would say, "I'm absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And I appreciate that." That firm confidence lapsed by the time of my meeting with the prime minister on Nov. 8 of that year.
In the intervening time, Hassan Rouhani had been elected president in Iran and the U.S. had opened a back channel to the Iranians.
Over the course of 2014, as the administration showed its readiness to accept an industrial-scale Iranian nuclear program and not roll it back, the gap with the Israelis reemerged, and Netanyahu became far more outspoken in his criticism of a possible deal. (Politico)
See also Susan Rice's "Combative" Tone Damaged Relations with Israel, Ex-Aide Writes - Peter Baker
Dennis Ross, the former Middle East adviser to President Obama, faults Susan E. Rice, the president's national security adviser, for exacerbating tensions with Israel during the talks that led up to the recent nuclear accord with Iran. Ross, who has worked on Middle East diplomacy for presidents of both parties, concludes that Ms. Rice's "combative mind-set" worsened an already troubled relationship with Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who feared that negotiations would leave Iran a threshold nuclear state.
(New York Times)
- Betting on Reform in Iran - Aaron David Miller and Jason Brodsky
Iran's desire to keep the nuclear weapons option alive as a threshold state is inextricably linked to how the regime sees itself: as a revolutionary, ideological Shiite Islamist cause with legitimate regional ambitions surrounded by hostile Sunni neighbors and a West - particularly an America - that wants it reformed or, worse, overthrown. Driven by a profound sense of insecurity and a deep sense of entitlement, if not grandiosity, Iran's desire for a putative nuclear weapon isn't some discretionary foreign-policy option.
As long as the Islamic Republic behaves like a cause and not just a country, the danger that it will choose to weaponize will be ever present.
Though President Hassan Rouhani may wax on about the possibilities of cooperation with the U.S. on non-nuclear fronts, in the end, it is the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who calls the shots. If we think the U.S.-Iranian diplomatic, economic, and political relationship is on a linear road to recovery, we better reconsider.
We don't doubt the desire for change among the Iranian public or the country's reformers - the problem is that they're not running the country and may not be for a very long time.
- Putin and the Shiite "Axis of Resistance" - David Schenker
Russia's military deployment in Syria is a strategic boon for the Shiite "Axis of Resistance." In the aftermath of Russia's deployment of an expeditionary force in Syria, new posters have appeared in Damascus featuring images of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with an Arabic caption that roughly translates: "Men who bow to no one but God."
A de facto division of labor between Russia and the U.S. on Syria has Moscow whacking the most proximate threat to Assad's regime, the relatively more moderate opposition - including militias purportedly receiving U.S. support - and Washington bombing ISIS. Working in tandem, the U.S. and Russian campaigns are effectively insulating the Syrian regime from the threat of imminent collapse. At the same time, the U.S.-Russian understanding preserves Iranian equities in Syria and protects Tehran's proxy in Lebanon, Hizbullah.
Not surprisingly, many of the region's Sunnis view the developing U.S.-Russian condominium in Syria as a sign that Washington now views Russia and Iran as forces for stability.
The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- Russian Involvement in Syria: What has Changed, and the Significance for Israel - Udi Dekel and Zvi Magen
Beyond saving Assad's regime, the Russian move, executed under the guise of fighting the Islamic State, is intended to advance Russia's effort for a senior role in the international arena. For good reason Putin compared the current circumstances to the World War II era and the need to reach understandings between the superpowers, similar to the Yalta Conference on the Crimean Peninsula that was designed to divide the spheres of influence between them after the war. The Sept. 28, 2015, meeting between the Russian and American Presidents at the UN was intended to lay a foundation of new understandings between the superpowers, together with an attempt by Putin to achieve American and Western recognition for Russia's military involvement in Syria.
Israel should strive for Russian recognition of Israel's interests in Syria, among them the need to prevent the establishment of Salafi jihadi terrorist elements in the Golan Heights border region. In spite of Russian promises that it is not Moscow's intention to challenge Israel militarily, time will tell whether Russia will maintain the understanding to refrain from stationing weapons systems that undermine Israeli military superiority on Syrian soil, such as S-300 surface-to-air missiles. Udi Dekel, managing director of INSS, was head of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff. Zvi Magen is a former Israeli ambassador to Russia.
(Institute for National Security Studies)
- Why Israel Should Be Worried about Russia's Role in Syria - Nadav Pollack
Giora Eiland, who was the national security advisor under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told me that Hizbullah will need to take into account the Russian interest of maintaining peace with Israel and might therefore avoid provoking the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said
curtailing the Islamic State's advance toward western Syria will be another benefit for Israel. But, overall, it appears that Russia's involvement will be a net negative for Israel.
During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, Hizbullah targeted Israeli tanks with an array of advanced anti-tank missiles. Most of them were Russian-made and had been sold to Syria, yet somehow ended up in Hizbullah's arms depots. Russia's growing presence in Syria will limit Israel's ability to cope with these arms shipments to Hizbullah. Given the advanced Russian surface-to-air missiles recently installed in Syria, Israel would need to think hard before ordering an attack deep inside Syria.
For Israel, an assertive Russia that looks to revive its relations with Arab countries mainly through military exports and nuclear energy cooperation should be troubling. The writer, a former analyst for the government of Israel, is a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(War on the Rocks)
- Russian Syria Bombing Jeopardizes Its Ties with Sunni World - Charles Recknagel
Moscow could lose significant influence in the Middle East as nations there react angrily to its bombing of Syrian opposition targets.
Russia has enraged Turkey by launching air strikes against Islamist groups in Syria that Ankara supports. This is delaying a massive new Russian gas pipeline project with Turkey. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and many other states have repeatedly called on Moscow to halt its bombing campaign.
"It is almost completely unanimous that the Arab governments are against the [Russian] bombing campaign," said Paul du Quenoy, a professor of history at the American University of Beirut. "Most of the Russian targets, including the [secular] Free Syrian Army and most of the Islamist opposition groups, are Sunni Muslims and most of the Arab states have majority Sunni populations."
One Arab capital, Cairo, has spared Moscow from criticism. "We believe that the [Russian intervention] will have an impact on the fight against terrorism in Syria and help eliminate it," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said on Oct. 4. Boris Zilberman, an analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, says Cairo appears to consider cooperating with Russia more important than forcing out Assad, after deals that Russia recently signed with Egypt on economic cooperation, arms, and a potential agreement on civil nuclear energy. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
- Can Obama Counter Hizbullah after the Nuclear Deal? - Jonathan Schanzer
Hizbullah now has 100,000 rockets - mostly supplied by Iran and many of them with advanced capabilities - pointing at Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, the group's leader, is likely feeling more confident now that sanctions relief granted to Iran through July's nuclear deal is almost certainly going to trickle down to Hizbullah, enabling arms purchases that will make the group that much more formidable.
In recent weeks, the White House has handed down financial sanctions against a number of Hizbullah targets. But these designations will do little to constrain Hizbullah's financial flows. At best, they are name and shame operations. It's not as if the Lebanese terror group was about to open bank accounts in Manhattan.
The writer is Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
See also Boosted by Nuke Deal, Iran Ups Funding to Hizbullah, Hamas - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
- Europe's Refugee Crisis Driven by Iran Deal - Guy Bechor
Why is there suddenly a huge jump in the wave of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe on a daily basis? The answer is the nuclear deal with Iran. The millions of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan had some vague hope that Syrian President Bashar Assad would fall one day, that one day the civil war might end. As soon as they saw that the nuclear deal had been signed, and that Iran would receive $150 billion and an end to the sanctions, they realized that what is happening in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is not going to end.
Europe's leaders, who pushed for a deal with Iran with all their might, didn't realize that it would lead to the millions who are now on their way. This isn't the first time that the European Union falls into its own trap. It happened in 2011, when an outburst of "human rights" made Europe topple Muammar Gaddafi, the leader who singlehandedly curbed the migration to Europe via the sea. Now there are hundreds of thousands of migrants through Libya. The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
- Quebec Judge: Israeli Military Activity in Gaza Is Self-Defense - Irina Alifanova
Montreal Judge Stephen J. Gallagher dismissed a Palestinian's appeal for Canadian refugee status who had alleged that Israeli military action in Gaza constitutes a form of persecution.
The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) determined that the applicant failed to provide sufficient evidence that he will be facing "persecution or a personalized risk" upon his return to Gaza.
After the applicant filed an appeal, Judge Gallagher determined that it is illogical to claim that the Israeli government is targeting all Palestinians, when in truth Israel has been defending itself for years.
"It is not a 'political opinion' to demand and work towards the destruction of another country and countries in international law have the right to defend themselves." Residents of Gaza are at constant risk of begin caught in the crossfire of efforts to destroy Israel by Hamas and armed militants. Thus, the applicant is simply an individual who "would be caught in the cross-fire of various dangerous and destructive policies pursued by the leadership of several political organizations in the region including Hamas." (CIJnews-Canada)
Palestinian Incitement and Terrorism (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- The recent series of attacks against Israelis is the direct result of incitement by radical Islamist and terrorist elements, calling on Palestinian youth to murder Jews. The incitement includes the spread of false claims against Israel, in particular regarding the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
- The Palestinian Authority, including its chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is using inflammatory Islamic rhetoric to spread false and malicious claims against Israel, and treat those who engage in the murder of Israelis as heroes. These statements amount to official incitement to violence.
- Radical Islamists are bringing explosive devices, firebombs and other weaponry onto the Temple Mount, thus deliberately desecrating, damaging and endangering the holy site and turning it into a battlefield. The militarization of a site revered by all should be universally condemned. The aim of these elements is to change the status quo and to prevent visits by non-Muslims on the Mount.
- The status quo protects the right of Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount, as well as the freedom of all people to visit the Mount. Visits to the Temple Mount over the past year included nearly 4,000,000 entries by Muslims, 200,000 entries by Christians, and 12,000 entries by Jews. Israel has never made any attempt to change the status quo, and any claim to the contrary is a lie.
See also Video: Culture of Hate - Palestinian Incitement Kills
The culture of hate in the Palestinian media, schools and social networks, together with the statements of Palestinian leaders, has reached new and gruesome heights. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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