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December 16, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Double Water Supply to Jordan - Uriel Herman (Globes)
    Next month Israel's Mekorot National Water Company will start laying a new pipeline through the Jordan Valley, intended to double the supply of water by Israel to the Kingdom of Jordan.
    In exchange, Israel will receive water from a Jordanian desalination plant to be established in Aqaba.
    The pipeline will provide the Hashemite kingdom with up to 100 million cubic meters of water per year, compared with 50 million cubic meters at present.
    Due to the ongoing war in Syria, millions of refugees have flocked to Jordan, resulting in a real water crisis which has made the need to increase the water supply more vital than ever.

Islamic State Ordered 2015 High-Speed Train Attack in France - James McAuley (Washington Post)
    Ayoub El Khazzani, 26, a Moroccan citizen and the main suspect in the August 2015 attack on a crowded high-speed train in northern France, was under orders from the same Islamic State terrorist cell that orchestrated the Paris attacks in November 2015, his lawyer said Thursday.
    Khazzani was subdued by fellow passengers aboard the train including three Americans, two of whom were off-duty members of the U.S. armed forces.
    Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attacks, had given Khazzani explicit orders to attack the train.

France Deploys 10,000 Troops amid Christmas Threat (Daily Express-UK)
    French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux told the French radio station RTL that there were currently more than 7,000 heavily armed soldiers patrolling France's streets and that 3,000 additional troops would be deployed to protect airports, Christmas markets, and places of worship, including churches and synagogues.
    He said Islamic State militants still posed a "serious threat" and that the country remained on "high alert" following a string of bloody terrorist attacks on French soil.
    Earlier this week, Le Roux said that 16 potential attacks had been foiled this year thanks to the extra search and arrest powers granted to police under the state of emergency.

Russia Detains Terrorists Preparing Moscow Attacks (Reuters)
    Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), has detained members of a terrorist group planning attacks in Moscow, RIA news agency reported on Thursday.
    The FSB said the group was acting on instructions from an Islamic State commander in Turkey and had weapons and explosives.

Iranian Officers Killed in Palmyra - Amir Toumaj (Long War Journal)
    Iran has confirmed the deaths of two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers in the latest battles in Palmyra, Syria.
    Capt. Ahmad Jalali-Nasab was announced killed in Palmyra on Dec. 13.
    The following day Brig.-Gen. (2nd class) Hassan Akbari was killed. Akbari was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War and was leading a sabotage battalion in Syria, according to state-affiliated Iranian media.

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UK: Jihadists Are "Hiding in Plain Sight" among Migrants - Ben Farmer (Telegraph-UK)
    Foreign jihadists fleeing from ISIS' shrinking caliphate are "hiding in plain sight" in migrant flows, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the head of Britain's Armed Forces, told the Royal United Services Institute.

Intelligence Report: Saudi Arabia and Gulf States "Support Islamic Extremism in Germany" - Lizzie Dearden (Independent-UK)
    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are supporting extremist Islamic groups in Germany, according to an intelligence report by Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency and the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) seen by the Suddeutsche Zeitung.
    The report said fundamentalist Salafism in Germany already has 10,000 followers and is growing.
    It accused Gulf groups of funding mosques, religious schools, hardline preachers and conversion groups to spread the ideology.
    The report named the Saudi Muslim World League, Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad al-Thani Charitable Association and Kuwaiti Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), all of which were "closely connected with government offices in their home countries."

Israel Ranks 16th in Defense Spending (IHS Markit)
    A report released Monday by IHS Jane's lists the Israeli defense budget in 16th place in the world at $13 billion, spending less than Canada but more than Taiwan.
    The leading defense spenders are the U.S. ($622 billion), China ($191), UK ($53), India ($50), Saudi Arabia ($48), Russia ($48), France ($44), Japan ($41), Germany ($35), and South Korea ($22).

Czech Military to Purchase Israeli Radar Systems (AP-Times of Israel)
    Czech Republic Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky said Wednesday his country will pay $114 million to purchase eight Israeli-made radar systems for its military of the type used in Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.

China, Israel Eye Cooperation on Medical Robots (Xinhua-China)
    Chinese and Israeli research institutes and companies attending an exposition on Tuesday in Guangzhou are keen to cooperate on developing medical robots.
    Nine Israeli companies displayed robotics currently used in spinal surgery, 3D imaging, and medicinal dosage handling devices.
    Israeli Robotics Association Chairperson Zvi Shiller said Israel has developed robots to help the disabled go to the toilet, shower and climb escalators.
    Chinese tech firm Gosuncn Technology Group is investing heavily in patrol robots.

Nevada and Israel Together Can Shape the Future of Water - Myron Brilliant (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
    As we're seeing in Nevada and throughout the southwest U.S., groundwater basins are drying up, leading to an increased prevalence and intensity of drought.
    Addressing these challenges will require innovation in water management, as can be seen in other dry environments, like Israel.
    While Israel is 65% desert, it boasts a national water surplus and even exports water to neighboring countries.
    Israel reclaims 90% of its wastewater, while the U.S. reclaims 1%.
    The Mediterranean Sea provides 60% of Israel's drinking water.
    Israel already has hundreds of start-up companies in the water sector that support U.S. industry in everything from leak detection to drip irrigation.
    The writer is executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry: Situation in Aleppo "Nothing Short of a Massacre" - Felicia Schwartz
    Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called the situation in Aleppo "unconscionable" and said Syrian President Assad's government was carrying out "nothing short of a massacre," as he reiterated U.S. calls for an immediate cease-fire. Kerry laid blame for the continued collapse of cease-fire agreements on Assad, but also faulted Russia and Iran for their roles in supporting continued assaults on civilians. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Trump Taps Adviser David Friedman for Ambassador to Israel - Mark Hensch
    President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday announced his pick of adviser David Friedman to be U.S. ambassador to Israel. "The bond between Israel and the United States runs deep, and I will ensure there is no daylight between us when I'm president," Trump said in a statement, saying Friedman would "maintain the special relationship between our two countries....His strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission and be a tremendous asset to our country as we strengthen the ties to our allies and strive for peace in the Middle East."
        Friedman said, "I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem."  (The Hill)
  • Israel Has Wary Eye on Iran after Syrian Rebels Lose Aleppo - Luke Baker
    The fall of Aleppo to Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran has heightened alarm in Israel about potential threats to its borders and a wider reshaping of the region. The war in Syria has enabled Iran, whose Supreme Leader has called for an end to the Jewish state, to steadily increase its influence across the region.
        Avi Dichter, chair of Israel's foreign affairs and defence committee and the former head of the Israel Security Agency, said Iran had tried several times in the past to move forces into the Syrian Golan Heights. Those moves were repelled, Dichter told Reuters, but he said that, with Iran flush with cash and confidence after last year's agreement restricting Iran's nuclear program, it was possible further attempts would be made to test Israel's responses.
        "We have no intention to allow Hizbullah to test their sophisticated weapons because there are no other targets in the Middle East except Israel when Hizbullah and Iran think about an offensive initiative," said Dichter. "By all means Israel is going to stop it."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister: Israel's Interest Is a Syria Without Assad or the Iranians - Gili Cohen
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that Israel's interest lay in "having both Assad and the Iranians out of Syria....Assad is a butcher, who has slaughtered and murdered hundreds of thousands of people, including by using chemical weapons. In my opinion, he should be removed from power - and we should block Iranian involvement in Syria."
        "Where is the international community? It's a shame that instead of focusing on the very unfortunate fact that 500 people are killed in the Middle East every day, the international community would rather criticize Israel for every new balcony built in a settlement."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Gathering Intelligence with Kites and GoPro Cameras - Yoav Zitun
    Hamas is using kites with GoPro cameras attached to them to surveil Israeli border communities and track IDF movements. Hamas is using low-cost drones for the same purpose. It is also building lookout points all along the Gaza border with Israel, sometimes just a few hundred feet from IDF outposts. One positive result is that with so many Hamas military forces in the area, it is becoming harder for Palestinians to illegally cross the fence into Israel.
        At the same time, the IDF Combat Engineering Corps is working around the clock to strengthen the underground barrier between Gaza and Israel, designed to detect and deter tunnel-digging. (Ynet News)
  • Thousands More Palestinian Workers to Enter Israel - Shira Karpick Sapir
    On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet is expected to approve a proposal to increase the quota for Palestinian workers in Israel by 22,000, in a move coordinated with the Ministry of Defense. (Globes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • How to Build Middle East Peace: Why Bottom-Up Is Better than Top-Down - Moshe Ya'alon
    Many in Israel and beyond remain convinced that the traditional model of the Middle East peace process has come very close to success in recent decades and that with some tweaks or twists, still further efforts along these lines might yield an acceptable outcome - if only both sides would make a few additional concessions. I disagree. The model of change embodied in the Oslo Accords failed, and if tried again, it will fail again. Only a fundamentally different approach to change - call it bottom-up rather than top-down - can end the underlying conflict.
        After I was appointed the head of Israel's military intelligence in 1995, shortly before the signing of the Oslo II agreement, I had the opportunity to see all aspects of Palestinian politics up close. What I learned was shocking - and I learned it just by following Palestinian media, Palestinian educational curricula, and Palestinian leadership statements. The evidence was overwhelming: rather than preparing the younger generations of his community for a historic reconciliation with Israel, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was feeding his people a steady diet of hatred and vitriol toward Israel.
        I remember the day I held one of my regular working meetings with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who served simultaneously as defense minister. In the course of that briefing, I gave him what I called "strategic early warning" that, in my view, the PLO leadership was planning to maintain the conflict against Israel regardless of Arafat's signature on the White House lawn. Regrettably, more than two decades later, my assessment has not changed. It is clear that the leadership of the PA still fills the minds of Palestinian youth with talk of Israel as an alien cancer in the Middle East that must be replaced "from the river to the sea."
        So long as the bulk of the Palestinian population remains unwilling to accept the reality of Israel's permanent existence as a secure Jewish, democratic state, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to have a true peace. The desire and the choice for peace have to rise from the bottom up, from the Palestinian people themselves. Until that happens, continued negotiations along traditional lines will never live up to the hopes many place in them. Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Palestinians See Israeli "Concessions for Peace" as Signs of Weakness - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas continues to enjoy enormous popularity among Palestinians, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank. Khalil Al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, said recently in Gaza, "We will not recognize Israel because it will inevitably go away. And we will not backtrack on the option of armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine....The liberation of Gaza is just the first step toward the liberation of Palestine - all Palestine. There is no future for the Israeli entity on our homeland."
        When Hamas leaders talk about the "liberation" of Gaza, they are referring to the unilateral Israeli disengagement from that area in 2005. Hamas and many Palestinians continue to see the Israeli disengagement as a sign of weakness. This is why Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, when it took credit for driving Israel out of Gaza through suicide bombings and rockets. It also explains why many Palestinians continue to support Hamas - because they still believe that violence is the way to defeat Israel.
        Many Palestinians see Israeli concessions, gestures and unilateral moves as proof of capitulation, rather than positive signs testifying to Israel's peaceful intentions. These "concessions for peace" by Israel further increase the Palestinian appetite for launching armed attacks against Israel. (Gatestone Institute)
  • The 7th Fatah Congress Again Legitimizes Popular Terrorism
    The 7th Fatah Congress held in Ramallah between Nov. 29 and Dec. 4, 2016, discussed strategies for dealing with Israel on the ground and in the international arena. The speeches given by Mahmoud Abbas and statements made by senior Fatah figures indicate the decision to strengthen the concept of "popular resistance," designed to create constant, controlled tension between Israel and the Palestinians in order to exert pressure on Israel.
        "Popular resistance," first decided upon at the 6th Fatah Congress in 2009, is not a non-violent quiet protest, as claimed by Abbas and the PA. It makes massive use of violence, especially throwing stones and firebombs, as well as stabbing and vehicular attacks. During the past year, "popular resistance" has caused the deaths of dozens of Israeli civilians and security forces.
        The PA and Fatah publicly support attacks carried out as part of "popular resistance" and do not consider them terrorism. They actively legitimize and aid Palestinians who carry them out by providing them with financial and media support, as well as providing aid for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and the families of "martyrs."  (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

  • Syria

  • The Battle for Aleppo, Syria's Stalingrad, Ends - Robin Wright
    The Battle of Aleppo, which since 2012 has pitted the despotic government of President Bashar al-Assad against an array of disorganized opposition rebels, now appears to be over. Much of the famed city, the largest in Syria, has already been destroyed. The Old City has been gutted. The fall of Aleppo is the biggest victory for Assad in the grisly six-year war, which has killed more than 400,000 people and left more than half of Syria's population, originally 22 million, dependent on international aid for daily survival. The rebel groups were outnumbered and outgunned by a government with airpower - and Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese Shiite forces to back it up.
        The loss of Aleppo is, in turn, a huge setback for the West, Turkey, and the Gulf monarchies, which supported several rebel factions with arms, training, or funds. In the end, Russia managed to make a deal - one that excluded the U.S. - to allow the last civilians to leave.
        This does not end the war. A variety of rebel groups including the most potent al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, still hold Idlib Province in the northwest. Assad and his foreign backers are likely to try to win it back next. It may prove harder than Aleppo. Assad's army surrounded Aleppo and cut off its roads to Turkey, which had allowed the rebels to resupply and rearm. It will be much more difficult to do that in Idlib, on the Turkish border.
        If President-elect Trump dramatically shifts course and agrees to terms that favor Russia and keep Assad in power, he risks angering allies or endangering long-standing partnerships - including with Turkey and the Gulf monarchies - with their own interests in Syria. "Without a political transition within Syria, the fighting won't stop," a U.S. official told me Monday. "And, without a political transition, there's no way we can finish off the Islamic State."  (New Yorker)
        See also Will Assad Target Idlib after Aleppo? - Fabrice Balanche (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Lesson of Aleppo - Seth J. Frantzman
    What Aleppo has proven is that in the 21st century a regime like Assad's can get away with any human rights abuse, even the scorched earth of most of its own country, while the world watches on YouTube and Twitter and does little. We have also learned of allowing Islamists to become fellow-travelers in populist causes. Eventually the Islamists hijack them, besmirch their image and can turn them into the kind of horrors ISIS unleashed.
        Supporting a free Aleppo was a worthy cause. Its fall to the regime and the extremism that was allowed to grow there are symbolic of the tragedy of the Middle East in general, cementing Russian power and Iranian influence in the region. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Iran

  • Ex-IDF Intelligence Chief: Keep Eye on Iran to Prevent Nuclear Cheating - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Preventing Iran from cheating on the nuclear deal depends on obtaining the right intelligence, former IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, currently director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, said in an interview. "If your sources are good, you can be 90% or even 100% sure of how many missiles there are, what their range is, the weight of the warheads, how many centrifuges there are, how much enriched uranium there is - the heads of intelligence can tell their political masters: This is what the adversary has."
        Intentions - "what they would do with nuclear weapons, how they would react to an Israeli attack" - are much harder to estimate, Yadlin said. "By definition, you must be much more humble as you are dealing with 'prophecy' and not just technical intelligence."
        Yadlin does not believe that the Russian S-300 air defense system in Iran would make an Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities impossible. The S-300 would make any attack "more complicated, but [it is] not a game-changer. There is no anti-aircraft weapon that cannot be attacked," though he admitted Israel might need to dedicate more aircraft to an attack as it might lose more craft in an attack in the process of taking out the S-300. (Jerusalem Post)
  • What Trump Should Do with the Iran Deal - Emily Landau
    There is a growing group of experts who are critical of the Iran nuclear deal but are not advocating that it be renounced by the new administration. At the heart of this view is the need to make the best of a bad situation. Problematic provisions of the deal must be clarified, better defined, and strengthened. Ambiguities must be cleared up and issues that have purposely been swept under the rug must be brought to light and aired.
        In order to sell the deal, the administration misled the American public by presenting the choice as between this deal or war, and hinted that a deal with Iran could very well engender better U.S.-Iran relations, although there was no sign that this was a realistic expectation. The Obama administration played up Iran's (minimal) cooperation while ignoring or explaining away its regional aggression. The more the administration acquiesced to Iran, the stronger Iran has become.
        The U.S. must stop playing the role of Iran's lawyer and defender, and begin holding it to the terms of the deal, while responding firmly to Iran's aggressive regional behavior. If there is no change in Iran's basic behavior, the JCPOA restrictions should not be lifted according to an arbitrary timetable, as there is no reason to believe that Iran would not go back to doing precisely what it was doing before the deal. The writer heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv. (Fathom-BICOM)

  • Other Issues

  • Identifying the Real Threat to Jews - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The Community Security Service (CSS) proactively protects the people, institutions and events of the American Jewish community. CSS has issued a new report about terrorist incidents and attacks on Jews and Israelis in the U.S. since 1967. In it, Yehudit Barsky, one of the top experts on radical hate groups in the country, paints a frightening picture of the rising toll of violence against Jews from white supremacists and radical Islamists.
        For all of the talk about Islamophobia, Jews and Jewish institutions remain the main targets of religious-based hate crimes in the U.S., a fact borne out by the FBI's annual reports. In 2014, the latest year available, 58% of all religious hate crimes in the U.S. were directed at Jews. Only 16% were anti-Islamic. (Commentary)
  • Most Arabs in Israel Want to Integrate into Israeli Society - Dov Lipman
    At the Brookings Institution in Washington this week, Mohammad Darawshe, director at The Center for a Shared Society, presented some astounding statistics about Israeli Arabs: 23% of Israeli doctors are Arabs, as are 46% of Israeli pharmacists.
        According to 2015 polling of Israeli Arabs by Prof. Sammy Smooha of the University of Haifa: 73% view "Israeli" as part of their identity, 77% want to see their community fully integrated into Israeli society, and 60% are "at peace" with the reality that Israel has a Jewish majority.
        There are 558 Arab teachers now teaching in Jewish schools, while 57 Jews teach in Arab schools. The writer served in the 19th Knesset. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How Israel's Technion Tripled Arab Enrollment - Dov Lieber
    Currently 20% of the students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are Arab. Arabs make up 20.7% of Israel's population. Prof. Peretz Lavie, the president of the Technion, told the Times of Israel that his university's achievement is the result of a rigorous program preparing students to meet admissions requirements before they apply - and has nothing to do with affirmative action: eased admission standards for historically disadvantaged populations.
        Twelve years ago, when just 7% of students in the Technion were Arab, the university began its NAM program, a Hebrew acronym that translates as Outstanding Arab Youth. The program, which is paid for by Jewish philanthropy, begins with an all-expenses-paid 10-month "boot camp" in mathematics, physics, English and Hebrew. Participants also receive full tuition, a monthly stipend, and a free laptop. After the camp, its participants - who are accepted into the program based on their good performance in high school - are ready to apply to the Technion at the same academic standard as every other candidate.
        In a positive sign for the economic potential of the Arab community, where a majority of women do not work, Lavie pointed out that 61% of the 527 Arab students in the incoming class are female. A survey of 1,500 recent Arab graduates of the Technion found that nearly all of them landed jobs in their first year after graduation, with 20% employed at international high-tech companies. (Times of Israel)

  • Weekend Features

  • First Cousins Who Thought Entire Family Died in Holocaust United in Israel
    Two pairs of Polish Jewish siblings, who each believed their entire families died in the Holocaust, met for the first time at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Earlier this year, Fania Blakay found a testimony in the Yad Vashem database about her father. It had been filled out by her father's brother-in-law, who Blakay had been told had died. In fact he had immigrated with his wife and daughters to Israel, and the daughters - Blakay's first cousins - were still living in Israel. On Tuesday, Blakay and her brother Gennadi Band - both of whom also live in Israel - were united with their cousins Henia Moskowitz and Rywka Patchnik. (JTA)
  • Remember the Holocaust's Forgotten Massacres - Robert R. Singer
    Babi Yar. Ponary. Fort IX. Poinitowa. Piaski. Chernovtsy. Mogilev. Rumbula. Last week, we marked 75 years since two Aktionen ("actions"), as the Nazis called these operations, were carried out in the Rumbula forest near Riga, Latvia, beginning on November 29, 1941. In these "actions," 25,000 Jews were shoved into pits dug by Soviet prisoners of war and shot in the head.
        When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the systematic operation to wipe out the Jews of Eastern Europe began. Over the next 15 months, SS Einsatzgruppen units methodically moved across the region, rounding up local Jews - often with the help of local police - then brutally massacring them before moving on to the next town. More than a million Jews were killed in this "Holocaust of Bullets."
        Survivors recall drunk German and Latvian officers bursting through their doors, hunting down residents, and throwing children out of windows, driving columns of people to the forest site. The writer is the CEO and Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. (Ha'aretz)

Egyptian and Israeli Cold Peace Has Never Been Warmer - Bennett Seftel (Cipher Brief)

  • The emergence of mutual security threats over the past few years has facilitated a growing partnership between Egypt and Israel. "Egypt and Israel are probably closer now for any number of reasons than they have been at any time since the peace treaty was signed in 1979," explains Aaron David Miller, an advisor to several secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations.
  • "Press reports suggest that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Sisi talk frequently - some articles even say as much as once a week," says David Schenker, Director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
  • Furthermore, Sisi's crackdown on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as well as his public disdain for Hamas, the Brotherhood's offshoot in Gaza, has strongly resonated with the Israeli leadership.
  • As part of the joint effort to combat militants in Sinai, Israel granted Egypt permission to increase its troop presence there beyond the limits established in the 1979 peace agreement.
  • "The fact that Egypt has had as much latitude as it has in fighting the Islamic State and other groups in Sinai without drawing Israel's ire speaks volumes to the level of coordination that is presumably happening behind the scenes," said Perry Cammack, a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • However, trade between the two nations has been limited, while feelings of animosity toward Israel continue to permeate Egyptian society. "Anti-Israel (and anti-American) material continues to appear in Egypt's state-run media as well as privately owned media, says Michele Dunne, Middle East Program Director at the Carnegie Endowment.
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