Syrian Chemical Weapons Program Is Operational Again, under Iranian Control
Syrian businessman Firas Tlass, son of former Minister of Defense Mustafa Tlass, told Al-Arabiya
on March 24, 2021, that certain areas in Syria are completely under Iranian or Hizbullah control, and that President Assad does not know what is happening there.
He said that weapons and missiles parts are hidden in vegetable trucks and then transferred into Hizbullah-controlled territories in southern Syria and Lebanon.
He added that Iran has complete control over the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, charged with creating biological and chemical weapons.
"The Iranians took over the research center so that the Russians would not take it over instead - particularly following the joke of 'handing over the chemical weapons.' Of course only a small part of the chemical weapons was handed over, and the rest was redistributed among many depots."
"Of course the Syrian chemical weapons program is operational once again."
Israel Intensifying Air War in Syria Against Iranian Encroachment
- Suleiman Al-Khalidi (Reuters
Israel has dramatically expanded air strikes on Iranian missile and weapons production centers in Syria, Western and regional intelligence sources say.
"We are trying to hit targets with a strategic impact," said Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, ex-head of the research wing of Israeli military intelligence.
"We want to prevent Iran turning Syria into an Iranian base close to Israel that may bring a drastic strategic change in the situation....That's why we keep pounding Iranian bases so they don't take control of the country."
A Syrian military source said, "There are fortifications underground that Israel cannot reach....You have warehouses dug into the mountains and equipped to be resistant even to bunker busters."
Residents of Syria's eastern Deir al-Zor region said dozens of decoy rocket launchpads and deserted farm barracks with Iranian militia flags now dot main highways in efforts to divert Israel away from genuine targets.
Israeli and Western officials said that if Israel had not escalated its air campaign, Iran would have carved out a strategic staging ground close to Israel's doorstep by now.
"Had (Israel) not intervened, the situation could have been 10 times worse. The Iranians are paying an ongoing price with many weapons being destroyed. Of course it has an impact on their activities but it does not solve the problem," Kuperwasser said.
Greece to Lend Saudi Arabia a Patriot Air Defense System
Greece will lend Saudi Arabia a Patriot air defense system to help protect critical energy facilities, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Tuesday.
Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis have stepped up drone and missile attacks on Saudi targets in recent weeks.
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Internal Tensions in Jordan Reflect Unrest among Bedouin Tribes
- Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The recent tensions between Jordan's King Abdullah and his half-brother, Prince Hamzah, reflect divisions among the Bedouin tribes.
The southern tribes in the provinces of Karak, Ma'an, and Tafileh, which provide soldiers to the Jordanian Army's infantry, have been restive for several years, with riots targeting government installations, police stations, and official vehicles.
The tribes in the center and north of the country do not exhibit this unrest.
The Jordanian Army tries to mix tribe members within its military units to avoid a concentration of one tribe.
However, the tribes located near Amman tend to staff the intelligence units, while tribes of the north are seen in the specialized units and the Air Force.
The northern tribes have grievances over the treatment of Princess Basmah, the wife of Prince Hamzah, who belongs to the Bani Ahmad tribe of the north.
Lifesaving Israeli Technology Immediately Diagnoses Skin Cancer
(Tel Aviv University
For the first time, melanoma - a deadly form of skin cancer - can be diagnosed in real time using an innovative optical technology developed by Prof. Abraham Katzir from Tel Aviv University.
The diagnosis is rapid, non-invasive, causes no pain to the patient, and has been tried successfully on 100 patients in a major hospital in Israel.
The current test for melanoma "involves surgery, and the pathological diagnosis takes a long time," said Prof. Katzir.
"The innovative system will enable every dermatologist to determine the character of a suspicious lesion automatically, and particularly if it is melanoma."
Saluting South Africa's 800 Volunteers in Israel's War of Independence
- Tali Feinberg (South African Jewish Report
Zan Swartzberg, 94, was 21 when he became one of 800 South African Mahal volunteers who heeded Israel's call for help after it was surrounded by seven Arab armies determined to obliterate it in 1948.
Zan joined the Israeli army and became a radio operator and air gunner in the fledgling Israeli Air Force.
More than a quarter of the 3,000 Jewish volunteers from around the world came from South Africa.
"I feel so privileged that I played a small part in the birth of a Jewish state," he says.
Hamas Rockets Did Not Break Israel's Spirit
- Matan Zuri (Ynet News
The first Hamas rocket fell outside Sderot on April 16, 2001, and the city became a main target of increasing rocket fire.
Despite 20 years of rocket fire, the Israeli communities along the Gaza border have grown in strength and resilience.
You need only to visit them to see children at play and new shopping centers full with young families building their home there to realize that the terror groups did not win.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- U.S. Sees Major Differences with Iran in Nuclear Talks
In a briefing on Wednesday, a senior State Department official discussed the indirect nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna. "There still are disagreements and, in some cases, pretty important ones on our respective views about what is meant by a return to full compliance.... We're not near the conclusion of these negotiations. The outcome is still uncertain. We've made some progress...but with still many differences that would need to be overcome."
"We're not going to accept a process in which the U.S. acts first and removes all of the sanctions that it is committed to removing before Iran does anything....If Iran hopes that it could do less than come back into compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA, that won't work."
"We have had numerous conversations with Israeli officials before and after every round of talks....We intend to be as transparent as we can. We know there's a disagreement with Israel's perspective and we respect that....We certainly intend to continue to pressure Iran and to counter their activities in the region that are destabilizing and that are going after our interests or the interests of our partners." (U.S. State Department)
See also Iran Nuclear Deal Talks Advance as U.S. Offers Sanctions Relief - Ian Talley
The Biden administration has signaled it is open to easing sanctions against critical elements of Iran's economy, including oil and finance, helping narrow differences in nuclear talks. Talks in Vienna are complicated by Iran's refusal to meet directly with the U.S.
Two people familiar with the matter said the U.S. is open to lifting terror sanctions against Iran's central bank, its national oil and tanker companies, and several key economic sectors including steel, aluminum and others. A senior European official said Washington has also signaled potential sanctions relief for textiles, autos, shipping and insurance. (Wall Street Journal)
- U.S.: "We Will Continue to Support Israel to Counter Threats Posed by Iran's Aggressive Behavior"
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in New York on Monday: "We support Israel's recent efforts to build relationships with its neighbors and the Arab and Muslim world. And we will work to expand the circle of peace in the Middle East, which is not only good for Israel, but for the whole region."
"The U.S. position on the JCPOA is clear: we are ready to return to the agreement if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear commitments....At the same time, we will continue to support Israel as it works to counter the threats posed by Iran's aggressive behavior."
"And at the United Nations, I will continue to stand by Israel, especially when it is unfairly and disproportionately singled out by one-sided resolutions and actions....We won't stand for single-minded targeting that doesn't get us any closer to peace." (U.S. Mission to the UN)
- Over 300 House Lawmakers Call for U.S. to Fully Fund Israel Aid without Restrictions - Laura Kelly
A bipartisan group of more than 300 lawmakers on Thursday urged the House Appropriations Committee to fully fund U.S. assistance to Israel. "Congress is committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge and its ability to defend itself, by itself, against persistent threats. Our aid to Israel is a vital and cost-effective expenditure which advances important U.S. national security interests in a highly challenging region," the lawmakers wrote.
"For decades, Presidents of both parties have understood the strategic importance of providing Israel with security assistance....As President Biden has stated, 'I'm not going to place conditions for the security assistance given the serious threats that Israel is facing, and this would be, I think, irresponsible.'" (The Hill)
- Facebook Halts Hackers Tied to Palestinian Authority Intelligence Service - Josef Federman
Facebook said Wednesday it has broken up a hacker network used by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' intelligence service in an attempt to keep tabs on journalists, human rights activists and government critics. Facebook said the PA's Preventive Security Service "used fake and compromised accounts to create fictitious personas." Posing as young women, journalists and political activists, they then sought "to build trust with people they targeted and trick them into installing malicious software."
The malware, disguised as chat applications, would give the security agency access to targets' phones, including contacts, text messages, locations and even keystrokes. Mike Dvilyanski, Facebook's head of cyber espionage investigations, said nearly 800 people were targeted. (AP-U.S. News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Syrian Anti-Aircraft Missile Strikes Israel, IDF Retaliates
An anti-aircraft missile launched by Syria toward an Israeli jet exploded near Dimona in Israel on Wednesday night. The IDF attacked Syrian missile batteries as well as other military targets in response.
- U.S. Urges Israel to Show Maximum Restraint during Iran Negotiations - Ron Ben-Yishai
Israel believes that the U.S. is determined to return to the original Iranian nuclear deal and not make changes to the problematic aspects. An agreement with Iran that would lift the sanctions could come within a few weeks. Israeli officials have concluded that Iran has made substantial technological headway in the past year regarding uranium enrichment using advanced centrifuges and in production techniques for the components of an actual bomb.
Messages relayed by American security officials urged Israel to show maximum restraint while negotiations were underway, unless it was in real imminent danger. As such, Israel has decided to keep offensive actions against Iran to the bare minimum. (Ynet News)
- Coronavirus Cases in Israel Continue to Fall
111 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, the Israel Ministry of Health said Thursday. There are 2,054 active cases, with 166 in serious condition including 98 on ventilators.
(Jerusalem Post-Israel Ministry of Health-Hebrew)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- Israel's Shadow War with Iran Doesn't Have to Strain Relations with the U.S. - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin
The regional and nuclear tracks of Iranian foreign policy might appear to be separate, but in fact they are part and parcel of a unified strategy. Nuclear weapons capability, once achieved, will ensure the regime's survival, whereupon Iran can use its conventional forces to subvert regional states under the cover of a nuclear umbrella.
Washington aims to build a "stronger and longer" deal through follow-on agreements that close some of the deal's loopholes. But once the nuclear deal has been reinstated, the U.S. may lack the necessary economic and political leverage over Iran to negotiate additional pacts.
If Israel intends to continue its covert campaign against Iran's nuclear program, it ought to do so within the framework of a joint strategy with the U.S. The idea that Washington might negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program while greenlighting efforts to degrade that very program may seem absurd - but consider that Iran is doing the exact opposite of that by expanding its program while negotiating.
A U.S.-Israeli agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should delineate agreed-upon nuclear redlines for Iran, formulas for calculating Tehran's distance from the bomb, contingency plans for a wide range of possible scenarios, a division of labor in the event of a last resort military option, and joint exercises to ensure that the military option remains credible.
The writer is executive director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies and former head of IDF military intelligence.
- Iran Rattled as Israel Repeatedly Strikes Key Targets - Ben Hubbard
In less than nine months, an al-Qaeda commander given refuge in Tehran was fatally shot, Iran's chief nuclear scientist was killed, and two separate explosions rocked a key Iranian nuclear facility. In addition, in 2018, Israel carried out a daring nighttime raid in Tehran to steal a half-ton of secret archives of Iran's nuclear program.
The attacks highlighted the seeming ease with which Israeli intelligence was able to reach deep inside Iran and repeatedly strike its most heavily guarded targets, often with the help of local Iranians, casting a cloud of paranoia over the country. Lawmakers have demanded the resignation of top security and intelligence officials. Moreover, an intelligence official said the additional steps Iran has taken to scan buildings for surveillance devices and plumb employees' backgrounds to root out potential spies has slowed down enrichment work.
"That the Israelis are effectively able to hit Iran inside in such a brazen way is hugely embarrassing and demonstrates a weakness that I think plays poorly inside Iran," said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House. (New York Times)
- Why Does Iran Require a Special "Deal" to Not Develop Nuclear Weapons? - Seth J. Frantzman
The original 2015 Iran deal guaranteed that Tehran would be able to continue its path to nuclear weapons after 15 years. No other country required a special "deal" in order to not develop nuclear weapons: only Iran. Iran's use of nuclear enrichment is a kind of mafia approach to foreign policy: Do a deal with us or we might start a war. If Iran doesn't get everything it wants, it will enrich uranium to threaten the world.
Since 2018, when the U.S. administration walked away from the deal, the other signatories of the deal have done nothing to stop Iran enriching uranium, illustrating that the Islamic Republic can do whatever it wants with or without the deal, without any consequences. How can international relations be held hostage to a country constantly threatening to build a nuclear weapon? If Iran can use nuclear enrichment to get things, won't it do that again in the future?
It is argued that the Iran deal prevents war. But Iran has already sent proxies in Iraq to carry out dozens of attacks that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Moreover, Iran has sent drones and missiles to proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen to carry out attacks on Saudi Arabia and Israel.
- Will the Natanz Attack Affect Nuclear Negotiations with Iran? - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Two weeks ago, Iran held the power advantage, playing the Natanz reactor card as a bargaining chip, in that it would operate the centrifuges if it did not obtain full concessions on the JCPOA nuclear agreement before returning to negotiations. Now, however, Iran has lost this bargaining chip.
Even opposing Arab countries are not against the spirit of the deal. They are against it being limited to nuclear enrichment and armament and that it does not address the very real Iranian threats against them, such as their ballistic missiles and waging foreign wars.
The writer is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
- Palestinian Elections: Facilitating Change or Masking Decay? - Andrew Harrod
A Middle East Institute April 8 webinar, "Palestinian Elections: Facilitating Change or Masking Decay?," drove home the failure of Palestinian politicians and their Western supporters to create a stable, workable political system in the West Bank and Gaza.
Anti-Israel Palestinian activist Fadi Quran, participating from the West Bank, noted that electing a new Palestinian Legislative Council "won't mean significant political change," as PA President Mahmoud Abbas controls the judiciary, executive, and security forces. Abbas, who has ruled since the PA's only elections in 2006, wants an "illusion of legitimacy" and "certain political gains for himself and his kind of cronies."
George Washington University political science professor Nathan Brown said the "elections will not be clean, they will not be fair." He added, "One of the biggest crises for the Palestinian national movement is essentially an institutional one. There are no credible institutions to essentially manage their affairs." Abbas has been ruling by decree since Hamas' 2007 takeover in Gaza.
- Hamas Fields a Militant Electoral List: Implications for U.S.-Palestinian Ties - Katherine Bauer and Matthew Levitt
The presence of numerous convicted terrorists on Hamas' candidate list for the May 22 Palestinian legislative election should raise urgent concerns. Among the many Hamas terrorist candidates are Jamal Muhammad Farah al-Tawil, a senior Hamas military commander in the West Bank who planned multiple suicide bombings, and Jamal Abd al-Shamal Abu Hija, sentenced to nine life sentences for involvement in at least six suicide bombings.
After Hamas won a majority in the 2006 legislative election, U.S. law was changed to restrict aid if the PA government includes Hamas members or allows the group to exert "undue influence." (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Extremist Anti-Peace Groups Are Exploiting the Palestinian Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh
Some of those running in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 22, are committed to continuing the fight against Israel and have absolutely no intention of recognizing Israel's right to exist. They include Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, and the PLO's Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The Hamas list, approved by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, does not recognize the Oslo Accord signed in 1993 between Israel and the PLO, although the elections are being held in accordance with the 1995 Oslo II agreement. In other words, the enemies of peace are using a peace agreement to destroy the prospects of a peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.
The Hamas list is named "Jerusalem is Our Destiny." Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said, "Hamas fully believes that its true destination is toward Jerusalem and that soon there will be a decisive battle to defeat [Israel] and expel it from our land." (Gatestone Institute)
- Will the Shift in Israeli Arab Politics Change the Palestinian Discourse? - Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh
Dr. Mansour Abbas, 46, an Israeli Arab dentist and chairman of the southern branch of the Islamist Movement in Israel, secured four seats in Israel's March 2021 Knesset elections for his Ra'am party on a platform of cooperation, integration, and normalization, in order to advance the socio-economic agenda of Israel's Arab population.
Abbas' campaign avoided incendiary statements on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that had for decades characterized the Israeli Arab political leadership's nationalist and Islamist rejectionist rhetoric.
His unilateral reset mirrors the spirit of the Abraham Accords, creating an internal "Abraham Effect" on Israeli Arab politics.
Yet some in Israel were concerned that he was employing a recognized strategy of political Islam to penetrate a state's political system to achieve Islamic ideological goals, comparing him to Turkish President Erdogan, Hamas in Gaza, and Iran's Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Ra'am's electoral success reflects a societal shift in the Israeli Arab sector. Two polls in early 2020 indicated a growing Israeli identity as opposed to a Palestinian identity that had more commonly characterized Arab citizens of Israel.
Dan Diker is Director of the Project to Counter BDS and Political Warfare at the Jerusalem Center. Khaled Abu Toameh is a veteran journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for three decades. Both are Fellows of the Jerusalem Center.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- For Arab Israelis, the New Peace Treaties Spell Opportunity - Marc J. Sievers and Jonathan H. Ferziger
Mas Watad, a Hebrew University-educated diet guru, is one of Israel's Arab citizens playing to a vast potential market in the Arabian Peninsula, after commercial ties were initiated last year through peace agreements with Israel.
Investment from the UAE and its neighbors should lead to greater economic opportunities and prosperity for Israel's Arab population. Palestinians in the West Bank may also benefit.
Israeli Arabs - 21% of the population - have an emerging professional class concentrated heavily in the medical sector. Arab-owned businesses, which figure prominently in Israel's construction and trucking industries, are increasingly moving into the realm of technology start-ups.
A large number of Arab Israelis are eager to enjoy the sights and sounds of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Manama. Besides sharing language and culture, they are able to circulate in these countries more freely than in, say, Egypt, where they are generally subjected to scrutiny and sometimes harassment.
The mayor of Kafr Qasim near Tel Aviv, Adel Badir, who recently returned from the Cybertech Global conference in the UAE, said,
"As Arabs in Israel, we've always been a bridge to encourage peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We are happy to play that role now with Arab countries that have opened to us through the Gulf accords."
Marc J. Sievers is a former U.S. ambassador to Oman. Jonathan H. Ferziger is a former Middle East correspondent for Bloomberg. Both are senior fellows at the Atlantic Council.
- Demographic Trends in Israel in 2020 - Yoram Ettinger
The number of Israeli Jewish births in 2020 (134,866) was 68% higher than in 1995, while the number of Israeli Arab births in 2020 was 16% higher, as reported in March 2021 by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. In 2020, Jewish births were 76% of total births, compared to 69% in 1995. In 2019, the Jewish fertility rate was 3.09, while the Arab rate was 2.98.
Israeli Jewish women are unique in experiencing a rising fertility rate despite expanded urbanization, increased education, a higher standard of living, rising integration into the job market and a rising marriage age, while these phenomena have lowered the fertility rate in all other countries. The unique growth in Israel's Jewish fertility rate is attributed to optimism, patriotism, attachment to Jewish roots, communal solidarity, a frontier mentality and a declining number of abortions.
Israeli Arabs' life expectancy (78 for men and 82 for women) is similar to the U.S. and higher than any Arab/Muslim country.
In the Palestinian Authority, a dramatic decline in the fertility rate from 9 births per woman in the 1960s to 3 in 2021 (similar to Jordan) is documented by the CIA World Factbook, reflecting the Westernization of Arabs in Judea and Samaria. This has been accelerated by sweeping urbanization (from a 70% rural population in 1967 to 77% urban in 2021) as well as the rising marriage age for women (from 15 to 22), and the substantial use of contraceptives (70%).
The data documents 1.5 million Arabs living in the PA and not the official Palestinian number (3 million). In 2021, there is a 68% Jewish majority
in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria.
The writer headed Israel's Government Press Office and later held the rank of ambassador at the Israeli embassy in Washington.
- Renewed U.S. Aid to PA Violates Spirit of Taylor Force Act - A.J. Caschetta
The Biden Administration's recent gift of $235 million in aid to the Palestinians violates the spirit of the Taylor Force Act. West Point graduate Taylor Force was 28 when he was murdered in Israel by a Palestinian terrorist on March 8, 2016.
Two years later, the Taylor Force Act was signed into law, ending all future aid to the Palestinian Authority unless and until the practice of rewarding terrorists and their families is ended. Then-Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel at the time of the murder, which he personally "condemned in the strongest possible terms."
The writer is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
- Declassified Documents Reveal Killing of Jews by British Forces in Mandatory Palestine - Itamar Eichner
Over 5,000 documents declassified by the State Archives shed light on the last decade of British rule in Mandatory Palestine, exposing untold stories of British soldiers wounding and killing Jews.
On Nov. 12, 1947, British troops attacked a house in Ra'anana where the Lehi pre-state militia was conducting a firearm course for youths. According to testimonies, four children aged 15-18, including three girls, and a 19-year-old instructor were mowed down while running away from the house and several others were wounded.
"There is no doubt the children that ran away from the building were not a threat, as shown by the fact that no British soldier was wounded in the incident," said Peleg Levi, who created the documentary, "The Children of Ra'anana," which deals with the shooting.
In another incident, on Sep. 17, 1947, Meir Plaskowski and his son Reuven were riding their motorcycle when both were intentionally run over and killed by a British armored car. According to the recently uncovered testimony of Shneur Zalman Gonik of Tel Aviv, who was driving that day in his car, the armored car swerved intentionally and hit the motorcycle. The archives also reveal the story of Asher Tratner, who was shot and killed in Haifa in 1944 by British soldiers while hanging posters for Lehi. (Ynet News)
- Despite intense efforts in Western capitals to second-guess Israel's security requirements, the top Israeli leadership has been remarkably consistent about what Israel requires to protect its vulnerable borders. The architects of Israel's national security have insisted on retaining "defensible borders" for assuring a stable peace.
- In the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, Gen. Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted:
"From a strictly military point of view, Israel would require the retention of some captured Arab territory in order to provide militarily defensible borders."
- In 2004, President George W. Bush wrote to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: "The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure and defensible borders to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself."
- IDF Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Yanai published a study on Israel's "Core Security Requirements" in 2005 and concluded: "Despite the technological advances of modern defense systems and warfare, controlling the high ground remains an essential part of basic security doctrine."
Similarly, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot wrote Guidelines for Israel's National Security Strategy in 2019 and included "defensible borders" among the seven principles for the military security of Israel.
- The West Bank mountain ridge, together with the Jordan Valley, constitutes a strategic barrier reaching more than 4,600 feet in some places to protect Israel against threats from the east on its longest land border.
- In the face of threats from Iran and Muslim terror armies equipped with state-of-the-art conventional weapons systems, terrain, topography, and strategic depth remain critical, as does Israel's need for defensible borders.
The writer, former Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is President of the Jerusalem Center.
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