Syrian Rebels Claim Car Bomb Attack that Killed Russian Soldiers (ARA News-Kurdistan)
"A huge explosion hit a security building in central Jableh city in Latakia province, where senior Russian forces were holding a meeting with Syrian army commanders" on Wednesday, a source close to the Syrian national security department told ARA News.
"The explosion was caused by a car bomb that hit the main entrance of the building," the source said, adding that the initial death toll has reached ten, mostly Russian soldiers.
Gazans Said Streaming into Sinai to Fight for Islamic State - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
A steady stream of members of Hamas and Salafi-jihadist terror groups are joining Islamic State fighters locked in combat with Egyptian forces in Sinai, sources in Gaza said Thursday.
The fighters are crossing into Egypt with the knowledge of Hamas, which supervises the few remaining tunnels that have not been closed by Egypt.
Wanted Palestinian Terrorist Killed in Bulgaria - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
Wanted terrorist Omar Nayef Zayed was found dead at the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria, local media reported on Friday.
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Zayed, 51, was convicted along with two others of the murder of yeshiva student Eliyahu Amadi in Jerusalem's Old City in 1986.
After being sentenced to life in prison, he was transferred to a mental hospital and then escaped in 1990, fleeing to an Arab country and then moving to Bulgaria in 1994.
After Israel requested his extradition from Bulgaria in December, Bulgarian authorities sought to arrest him but he escaped to the embassy before they could get to him.
It's safe to assume that the Palestinian claim the Mossad is behind Zayed's death is baseless.
Israel would not dare get entangled with an assassination after filing an official request for his extradition, and certainly not while Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is visiting Israel.
PA Seeks Improved Relations with Iran - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
The Palestinian Authority made recent gestures indicating its desire to improve relations with Iran.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter of congratulations to Iranian President Rouhani on the 37th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reporated on Feb. 14.
Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki travelled to Iran to participate in the celebrations. While there, Zaki told Lebanese TV: "It is in the Palestinian interest that Iran be a strong state."
Spy Agencies See Sharp Rise in Canadians Involved in Terrorist Activities Abroad - Robert Fife (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Canada's spy agencies have tracked 180 Canadians who are engaged with terrorist organizations abroad, while another 60 have returned home.
The latest figures mark a significant increase from the findings of the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, which identified 130 people involved in terror-related activities overseas.
Israel Knew of Hamas Attack Tunnel Plan in 2014 - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
Nadav Argaman, the new director of the Israel Security Agency and its former deputy director, said that in April 2014, the ISA warned that Hamas was planning to carry out a pre-emptive strike or attack in response to a security event.
In such an attack, dozens of fighters from Hamas' Special Forces will come out of the attack tunnels.
The ISA identified behavior, statements, and intentions of Hamas to launch a significant war in July 2014.
See also The Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted - Hirsh Goodman and Dore Gold, eds. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Sudanese Attacker in Ashkelon Stabbing Was Devout Muslim Influenced by ISIS - Ben Hartman (Jerusalem Post)
Kamel Hasan, 32, a Sudanese national who stabbed a soldier in Ashkelon earlier this month, was a devout Muslim influenced by Islamic State ideology, the Israel Security Agency said Thursday.
On his cellphone, investigators found "pictures of Islamic State members taken in locations around the world."
Palestinians Working for Israelis Earn Three Times as Much as in the PA - Ali Sawafta (Reuters)
Around 36,000 Palestinians work in Israeli towns in the West Bank, many in construction, earning up to three times as much as the average Palestinian wage.
Israel has also established several industrial zones for Palestinians. West Bank businesses say they offer much needed employment.
Israel disputes that its settlements in the West Bank are illegal and says the final status of territory it captured nearly a half-century ago should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Hamas Civil Servants Strike over Unpaid Salaries (Ma'an News-PA)
Civil servants hired by Hamas in Gaza implemented a one-day strike on Thursday to protest unpaid salaries.
The employees have not been regularly paid since 2014, by some estimates receiving only 40% of what is owed to them.
Huge Increase in European Products Passing through Israel to Arab States - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
According to Israel's Regional Cooperation Ministry, because of the civil war in Syria, Israel has in recent years become the main land bridge between some European and Arab countries.
Turkey and Bulgaria, which used to ship products to Iraq, Jordan and the Persian Gulf overland through Syria, now put trucks on ferries or load containers that are shipped to Haifa, and then are driven overland to Jordan.
Last year 13,000 trucks from Turkey and Bulgaria passed through Israel.
Israeli App Helps Manage Your Medical Information - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
The Hello Heart free mobile therapeutic app helps people with chronic heart risk and high blood pressure manage their lab results, doctor visits and medications.
After six weeks of using the app, 25% of users had reduced their blood pressure by 10 points or more.
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- Benjamin Netanyahu Responds to David Cameron's Criticism of Israel - Isabel Kershner
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel responded sharply on Thursday to British Prime Minister David Cameron's stinging assertion that he found Israel's construction in east Jerusalem "genuinely shocking." "My friend David Cameron, who is undoubtedly a friend of Israel, seems to have forgotten a few basic facts about Jerusalem," Netanyahu said.
"Only Israeli sovereignty" prevented the Islamic State "and Hamas from igniting the holy sites, as they are doing all over the Middle East. Only Israeli sovereignty guarantees the Arab residents of the city roads, clinics, employment and all the other trappings of normal life that their brethren do not enjoy elsewhere in the Middle East."
Israel "maintains the rule of law for all, something that doesn't exist in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, or in large parts of the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. It is important that our friends in Europe remember that simple fact." (New York Times)
- Iran Reinforcing Its Forces in Syria - Caroline Akoum
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Iran recently sent thousands of Shi'ite Afghani refugees to fight alongside the IRGC
and Hizbullah in Syria. Two days ago the Modafee'en Harm website that covers news on Iranian fighters in Syria gave details on 68 IRGC soldiers and Basij volunteers killed last month in Syria. The website confirmed that IRGC and Basij forces' presence has increased in Syria over the last weeks. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
See also Kerry: Iran Reducing Troops in Syria - Esra Kaymak Avci
Iran has reduced its involvement in Syria and withdrawn a "significant number" of its elite Revolutionary Guards troops, Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers Thursday.
- U.S., Israel Test Multi-Layer Anti-Missile Air Defenses - Barbara Opall-Rome
IDF Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovich, commander of Israel's Air Defense Forces, and Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, the U.S. Air Force commander of a U.S.-Israel Joint Task Force for air and missile defense, briefed reporters Thursday on the ongoing Juniper Cobra U.S.-Israel air defense drill underway in Israel.
All layers of Israel's active defense network - Arrow-2 and Arrow-3; Patriot PAC-2 air defense batteries; Iron Dome; and the not-yet-operational David's Sling Weapon System - are taking part in simulations against coordinated and sustained salvo attacks from multiple fronts.
They were joined in simulated battles by the Aegis destroyer Carney and THAAD and Patriot PAC-3 batteries participating via data links from the U.S. and Europe.
- Yemeni Rebels a Rising Threat in Southern Saudi Arabia - Hugh Naylor
Yemeni fighters have killed and captured hundreds of Saudi soldiers in southern Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of mortars and rockets have slammed into schools, mosques and homes in Najran, a city of several hundred thousand only a few miles from Yemen.
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen to stop assaults by the Houthis who toppled Yemen's Saudi-backed government last year and are seen as proxies of Iran. In turn, the rebels and allied military units loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have sought to inflict pain on Saudi Arabia by launching intense cross-border attacks. (Washington Post)
See also Hizbullah Backing Houthis and Planning Terrorist Attacks on Riyadh
Al Ekhbariya, an Arabic news and TV channel based in Riyadh, broadcast a video on
Feb. 25 showing Hizbullah's involvement in terrorist activities in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The video included a Hizbullah commander, "Abu-Saleh," responsible for training Houthi militants for operations in Saudi Arabia including assassinating senior figures in Riyadh. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Security Guard Critically Wounded in Ax Attack at Ma'ale Adumim Mall - Roi Yanovsky
An unarmed Israeli security guard, 48, was critically wounded in an ax attack at the Ma'ale Adumim mall on Thursday night.
The terrorist escaped, and a bloody ax used in the attack was found. (Ynet News)
- Netanyahu: Nuclear Deal Hasn't Stopped Iran's Support for Terror - Herb Keinon
"Yesterday Iran announced that it will finance the families of the terrorists and murderers," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
"This shows that Iran, even after the nuclear agreement, is continuing to aid
terrorism, including Palestinian terrorism, Hizbullah terrorism and its
assistance to Hamas. This is something that the nations of the world must confront and condemn, and assist Israel - and other countries, of course - in repelling." (Jerusalem Post)
- Jerusalem Mayor Questions Cameron's Understanding of Facts on the Ground in the City - Daniel K. Eisenbud
In response to British Prime Minister David Cameron's calling Israeli settlement construction in east Jerusalem "genuinely shocking," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Thursday questioned the prime minister's knowledge of facts on the ground in east Jerusalem. Barkat asked, "What construction is he 'shocked' by in east Jerusalem? By the newest, most advanced schools we are building to educate the youth? By the new roads we are paving for the residents? By the childcare and community centers we are establishing for the benefit of the families?"
"The quality of life for east Jerusalem residents is constantly progressing and is far superior to the quality of life for residents in any of our neighboring countries." He added that the majority of Arab residents of the city have repeatedly indicated their preference for a united Jerusalem in the "most recent independent, international surveys."
"As would be the case in London, the idea that a resident would be denied the right to live in a certain neighborhood based on their religion is preposterous....I personally invite Prime Minister Cameron, a true friend of Israel, to visit and see for himself our commitment to our Arab residents in east Jerusalem and the tremendous advancement we have made in bridging gaps across the city." (Jerusalem Post)
- "Happy and Proud" to Be Here, Egypt's First Ambassador Since 2012 Presents Credentials - Raphael Ahren
Egypt's new ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat handed his diplomatic credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on Thursday, officially becoming Cairo's first senior emissary to Israel since 2012. "He told me that he is very happy and very proud to be in Israel and that he hopes that his presence here will bring about a situation in which the friendship between the Jewish people and the Arab people in general, and between the countries of the region, will be such that we can live in peace," Rivlin said.
(Times of Israel)
See also Egyptian MPs Call to Oust Colleague for Meeting with Israeli Ambassador - Maayan Groisman
Egyptian Member of Parliament Tawfik Okasha hosted Israeli ambassador to Cairo Haim Koren for a dinner at his house on Wednesday, Egyptian media reported on Thursday. The meeting enraged other Egyptian MPs who claimed that Okasha infringed on the declared policy of the Egyptian parliament which opposes normalization with Israel. Two MPs asked Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al to cancel Okasha's membership in parliament. According to a survey by the Egyptian news site Barlamani, 90% of Egyptians were opposed to the meeting between Okasha and Koren.
- Will Iran's Elections Matter? - Sohrab Ahmari
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is staging an election on Friday. There will be ballot boxes and voter lines, and Western journalists will be granted rare access to cover an event the regime is keen to portray as a legitimate democratic exercise. Yet every candidate has been screened by layers of security men and hand-selected by Islamic jurists. Half of the original 12,000 candidates for the 290-seat Majlis were disqualified ahead of the election, as were 75% of the 801 candidates for the 88-member Assembly of Experts - including Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Even if every single disqualification were reversed, however, it wouldn't matter a wit, since the regime's popular branches are subservient to its unelected institutions. Above them all sits the supreme leader, and the pre-election purge means whoever succeeds Mr. Khamenei is likely to share his views on all important matters.
Herein lies the perverse genius of the Islamic Republic. It encourages outsiders to treat the regime as something other than a theocratic dictatorship. Western officials, and many Iranians themselves, hope that the regime's periodic elections might finally empower men who will moderate Tehran's behavior. Yet it's been 37 years and the hard-liners - who run the armed forces, the repressive apparatus, the nuclear program, the judiciary and the state-run media - are tightening their grip and flaunting their enduring primacy. (Wall Street Journal)
- The Economic Question Iran's Election Campaign Hasn't Answered - Ray Takeyh
Whatever the ballots are marked in Iran's elections on Friday, the theocratic state's vetting bodies will make sure that all but the most reliable loyalists are disqualified from public office. Iran's parliament will remain in the hands of conservatives. The Assembly of Experts will be manned by elderly clerics.
The problem for the Islamic Republic is the fact that its leaders have no vision for how to meet future economic challenges. Iran today resembles the Soviet Union of the 1970s, a regime that avoided economic reforms and hoped that oil money would save it. That was a regime that indulged in imperial ventures with obvious costs but hard-to-discern benefits; a regime shielding itself in an ideology that convinced a few and inspired no one. This dilemma cannot be resolved by another round of circumscribed elections.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Debate over Iran Deal Underlined Israel's Power - Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman interviewed by Ariel Kahane
"Today Hamas is much worse off than it was in the past. It's true that they are preparing for the next war, and there's no reason to think they won't start one, but the fact that Hamas says, 'We need to kill the Zionists, but not this week,' that's the best deterrence we can achieve."
While many in Israel see the the nuclear agreement with Iran as a failure by Netanyahu, Lerman thinks the struggle actually "underlined the power of the leader of a small state in the Eastern Mediterranean, who was the only one to dig in his heels against the agreement....The fact of the matter is that a serving president of the United States, in his second term, and on a central issue for him, chose to avoid a vote in Congress, and instead deployed a filibuster to prevent the vote, because he doesn't have 50 senators who'll support him, never mind 67. All this because of the stand taken by this one leader. For me, this tells us that Israel's power is not insignificant."
"We're in a new world in which Syria doesn't exist, Lebanon is a fiction, Jordan is Israel's ally, and Egypt is a partner. When I entered the job [at the National Security Council] in 2009, none of this existed....We need to be very patient. Our struggles are not hopeless. We are a sovereign people that has exercised its right to self-definition in its homeland....Today we are engaged in a struggle over our story, our justifications, and our future. That requires a lot of hard work, but it's not impossible." Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman served for six years as deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- Iran Deal Even More Unpopular in U.S. - Richard Baehr
Time has not made the Iran deal any more popular.
The most recent Gallup poll on the Iran deal shows 57% opposed and 30% in support, the widest margin opposing the deal since the talks with Iran began.
Only 14% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Iran.
The supposed "new Iran," which was ready to join the community of nations and become a more moderate, responsible regional power, has been anything but, with the seizure of an American ship by the Iranians and their ballistic missile tests.
Moreover, Iran has continued the constant refrain, since the agreement was struck, that the State of Israel must be eliminated. (Israel Hayom)
- Polls Show Most Muslims Reject Both Extremism and Islamic Reform - David Pollock
According to public opinion polls, in Muslim-majority societies, ideology is not the first thing on most people's minds, not even close. When asked open-ended questions about their personal priorities, large majorities give pride of place to practical issues - like jobs, family, education, health, or income. Asked about national priorities, large majorities rank security, economic development, or combating corruption highest on the list, rather than any particular ideological orientation.
In one 2015 poll of Palestinians, only about one in seven West Bankers and Gazans, on average, selected the Islamic option of "being a good Muslim" as their top personal priority. Moreover, tough countermeasures against jihadist ideologies and groups are probably acceptable to the vast majority of local Muslim populations who are firmly opposed to the Islamic State.
In half a dozen Arab countries polled by this author, support for jihadists is 2-5% in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and the Palestinian territories, while 95% have a negative view of IS. And over the past year, the popularity of IS among major Arab publics has been shrinking, not rising. It is clearly not a mass movement. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Young Palestinians Believe Israel Can Be Defeated with Knives - Khaled Abu Toameh
A new generation of Palestinians has been brainwashed to believe that Israel can be defeated with knives and car-attacks.
The current conflict is not about "defending" any mosque from being contaminated by the "filthy feet" of Jews: it is about seeing Israel forced to its knees. Abbas and others seek to reap political fruit from this "intifada."
In their recent meeting, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he intends to pursue unilateral moves to impose a solution on Israel, with the help of the international community.
Palestinians are waging an all-out war against Israel with the goal of making Israelis suffer to a point at which they will beg their leaders to capitulate. In the Palestinian view, such behavior pays off royally.
It is a Palestinian commonplace that the two previous uprisings - in 1987 and 2000 - brought major achievements to the Palestinians.
The first "intifada" led to Israel's recognition of the PLO - a move followed by the signing of the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority.
The second "intifada," the Palestinians argue, led to Israel's full withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. (Gatestone Institute)
- Boycotting Israel Doesn't Help Palestinians - Terry Glavin
Does the BDS strategy truly hold out the promise of improving the lives of the Palestinian people, or serve the cause of a democratic Palestinian state coexisting alongside Israel?
Bassem Eid, who founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, believes, "The BDS campaign is completely contradictory to the Palestinian cause. We will never build peace this way. It has been catastrophic....The agenda of the BDS campaign is to try to destroy Israel. What I try to explain to people is that if you support BDS, you are not supporting the Palestinian cause. You are not even aware of the Palestinian cause."
I asked Eid if there might be anything anti-Semitic about the BDS campaign. "Of course it's anti-Semitic," Eid said. "There is no doubt about it. It is because it's anti-Semitic that the campaign has such energy around it. These activists believe that Israel should not exist, that there should not be a Jewish state, that the Jewish people should not exist." (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
- Israeli Volunteers Passing Critical Humanitarian Supplies to Syrians - Nicky Blackburn
Several times a year, Doreen Gold, an Israeli Jew, goes undercover to organize a mission of humanitarian aid for Syrian NGOs.
Some 200 Israeli volunteers are working for her nonprofit, Il4Syrians. Doreen (not her real name) has signed a form that says that if she is captured, the government will not negotiate for her release.
Il4Syrians began operating in April 2011. "We were probably the first international NGO operating in the area," she says.
The first mission brought in sanitation kits, baby powder, food and medical supplies. Since then the organization has passed along survival kits, medical devices and even 3,000 chemical suits to protect the doctors working with patients who had been victims of chemical attacks. The group supports 17 field hospitals and surgery rooms in Syria. Doreen's team keeps them stocked with everything they need. It has also provided four 3D printers to Syria and trained 22 orthopaedic doctors to print out prosthetic limbs.
Two years ago Doreen admitted to one of the large Syrian NGOs she works with where she comes from.
"They understood for the first time that...Israeli volunteers were risking their own lives in order to save their women and children. Their world was shaken to the core. After a month they came back to the table and made an agreement with us." (Israel21c)
- Bill Gates: Israeli Tech "Changing the World" - David Shamah
Bill Gates told over 2,000 people at the Microsoft Israel R&D Center's annual Think Next event in Tel Aviv Thursday that Israeli developments in tech areas like analytics and security were "improving the world." He said the Microsoft Israel research and development center "started in 1991, when some of the Israeli engineers at Microsoft wanted to return home but continue working at Microsoft. We decided to open the center - it was our first one outside the U.S. - and I think the technology they have produced over the years more than justifies our decision."
"I have been very impressed with what they have done in the past 25 years, and I can't wait to see what they come up with in the next 25," Gates added. (Times of Israel)
- MIT-Israel Program Supports New Collaborations - Kylie Fisher
Since 2008, the MIT-Israel Program has sent over 485 students to Israel for fully-funded industry and research internships. Its MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program has included testing new ventilation techniques for hospital patients; co-authoring articles about learning robots; researching new genetic cancer markers; creating new mobile features for cybersecurity companies; installing solar panel arrays, and hundreds of other significant projects.
Camille Richman '15 interned at Keter Plastic where she designed a semi-automated table for packaging small parts to create a more comfortable environment for elderly factory workers. She also taught classes in aeroponic farming to high school students. The program also sent ROTC students to Israel to visit military bases and meet with current and former IDF soldiers.
See also MIT Matches MBA Students with Israeli Start-Ups - Lidar Grave-Lazi (Jerusalem Post)
- Boy Finds Ancient Figurine on Hiking Trip
A 7-year-old boy uncovered a 3,400-year-old figurine during a hiking trip to the Beit She'an Valley in northern Israel. Uri Grinhot was climbing in the area with his friends and parents when he stumbled across the statue at the Tel Rehov archaeological site, the Walla news website reported Thursday.
Amihai Mazar, professor emeritus at Hebrew University and head of archaeological excavations at Tel Rehov, said the statue is "typical of Canaanite culture from the 15th to 13th centuries BCE."
(Times of Israel)
- Pressure Sensing Socks Could Help Reduce Foot Ulcers in Diabetics - Abigail Klein Leichman
The BioDesign: Medical Innovation program at Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center has developed SenseGO, a machine-washable sock containing dozens of micro-fabricated pressure sensors to monitor foot ulcers resulting from diabetic neuropathy. "By giving patients and their families the tools they need to prevent the development of ulcers, we can dramatically reduce healthcare costs related to diabetes," said Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, BioDesign program director.
Obama Signs Israel Anti-Boycott Provisions into Law, Settlements and All - Eugene Kontorovich (Washington Post)
See also Obama's Policy on Israeli Settlements - Eugene Kontorovich (Washington Post)
- Congress recently passed a massive trade and customs bill containing provisions designed to oppose boycotts and similar economic warfare against Israel. President Obama signed the bill into law on Wednesday, stating that he objected to parts of the law that oppose boycotts of Jewish Israeli enterprises in the West Bank and Golan Heights. However, his statement does not in any way limit the reach or finality of the law.
- One of the main operative provisions of the law bans the enforcement of foreign judgments against Israeli entities that are based on the mistaken notion that doing business in Israeli-controlled territories is illegal.
- This law is part of Congress' exclusive legislative power to regulate the procedures of the federal courts, a power in no way shared with the president.
- As of now, U.S. law clearly opposes boycotts that are "politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories."
- While signing into law important measures opposing boycotts of Israel, President Obama complained about their application to "Israeli-controlled territories." claiming the provisions were "contrary to longstanding bipartisan United States policy, including with regard to the treatment of settlements."
- The administration is wrong about the fact that the law contradicts U.S. policy toward the settlements. True, the White House across multiple administrations has opposed Israel allowing Jews to live in the West Bank, and criticized the growth of such communities. But at the same time, the U.S. has strongly insisted that the conflict be solved through bilateral negotiations, not coercion.
- Boycotts are not a diplomatic, but rather a coercive, tool and thus contradict long-standing U.S. policy.
The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
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