Monday, December 23, 2019

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Israel Does Not Commit War Crimes
Israel does not intentionally harm civilians in Gaza or anywhere else. Yes, civilians are harmed in Gaza by IDF actions, but they are not the target. In 2015, a panel of former top military leaders and generals from eight democratic countries investigated the 2014 Gaza War. Their conclusion: Israel's conduct in the conflict "met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations' militaries....The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield at significant tactical cost."

Furthermore, Jews living at the site of the biblical Shiloh, or in the shadow of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, are not committing war crimes. To say that a Jew living in Judea - the cradle of Jewish civilization - is a war criminal is ridiculous. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "To turn the fact that Jews are living in their land into a war crime is an absurdity of unimaginable proportions."

What starts with Israel will not end with Israel. If today Israeli politicians and soldiers will be charged with war crimes for the unintentional death of innocents during a military campaign, then tomorrow the politicians and soldiers of other countries will also find themselves so accused.

Syria intentionally commits war crimes. Iran intentionally commits war crimes. Turkey intentionally commits war crimes. Israel does not.
The Hague vs. Israel: Everything you need to know about the ICC Palestine probe
7. Does the ICC unfairly single out Israel for censure?

It is certainly possible to argue that getting dragged into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a good look for the court. A bloody civil war has been raging for years in Syria with hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced; there are massive human rights violations in China, Myanmar, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere; and The Hague does nothing.

Instead, the ICC, which seeks to prosecute only the “most serious crimes of international concern,” is gearing up to investigate a Western democracy that insists it is fighting defensive conflicts against brutal terrorist organizations, and building homes on disputed territory captured in a defensive war.

“Who are they accusing here? Iran? Turkey? Syria? No — Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. This is terrible hypocrisy,” Netanyahu said Sunday.

On the other hand, this “whataboutism” argument isn’t entirely straightforward, either. The aforementioned states, like Israel, are not members of the ICC and the court thus does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed on their respective territories.

The ICC did not choose to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It did not initiate the process. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that the court, with its limited resources and already poor reputation, was hoping to stay far away from it. However, it was dragged into it by the Palestinians. Frustrated with the lack of progress in the peace process, Ramallah viewed The Hague as a convenient arena to score potent points against Israel.

However, it can be counter-argued, the prosecutor could have easily rejected the case by determining that the ICC does not have jurisdiction because Palestine is not a state. Whether she chose the opposite path out of purely legalistic or political-ideological reasons we may never know definitively. But we will find out soon enough whether the pretrial chamber agrees with or reject her arguments.

In the meantime, it is worth noting that the prosecutor’s announcement last week did not come as a surprise to Israel. For the last five years, senior politicians, including those on the right, were keenly aware that Bensouda was watching Israel’s every step. Netanyahu’s vocal support for expanding the settlement enterprise, including his recent repeated vows to annex significant portions of the West Bank, self-evidently did not help convince her to close the case and let it be.
ICC to Open Probe Into War Crimes in West Bank, Gaza
Israel's ministerial cabinet on Sunday decided to classify its discussions of the International Criminal Court’s expected investigation of alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, local media reported.

ICC reportedly spurned Israelis, met Palestinian group before probe decision
The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor reportedly met with a Palestinian group, but avoided meeting with Israeli organizations, before the court announced Friday that it was preparing to probe alleged war crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians.

The Israeli organizations sought to present prosecutor Fatou Bensouda with information on alleged crimes by the Palestinian Authority, Channel 13 reported on Sunday.

Despite avoiding the Israelis, Bensouda met several times with Palestinian organizations ahead of the decision, with the most recent meeting occurring roughly two weeks ahead of the announcement.

One of the pro-Israel organizations that tried to meet with Bensouda was the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, a human rights group with representatives in Israel, the US and the UK.

The head of the organization, Meir Linzen, told Channel 13 that “for about a year we contacted the prosecutor several times, and didn’t get an answer.”

Linzen said the organization had prepared documents with its legal opinion that the ICC lacked authority to investigate the case, as well as information on the Palestinian Authority’s financial compensation of those involved in carrying out terror attacks against Israelis. The group reached out to Bensouda via both email and phone calls to no avail.

Bensouda met with representatives of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, who criticized the ICC for being unfairly biased toward Israel in a tense meeting earlier this month. The center posted footage of the meeting on its Facebook and YouTube pages on December 8.

ICC Has No Jurisdiction in Proposed Investigation of Israel
The decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court not to dismiss the Palestinian case that calls for a criminal investigation of Israelis is unfounded and outrageous. It has turned the ICC into a political weapon waging political war against the Jewish state.

The Court has jurisdiction only in cases brought before it by sovereign states. The simple truth is that there is no Palestinian state and there never has been such a state. Accordingly, the Court has no jurisdiction in this case and claiming otherwise is a distorted act of legal acrobatics.

It is indisputable that Israel, the state of the Jewish people, has indelible historical and legal rights in our homeland. The parties agreed that the end of the conflict between them would be reached through direct negotiations. The Palestinians keep avoiding negotiations and consistently and systematically violate their commitments, including by this appeal to the Court.

The Prosecutor has been influenced by Palestinian manipulation, which aims to weaponize the Court. The attempt to turn a political issue into a legal one places a serious obstacle in the way of resolving the conflict.

Jurisdiction is not a mere formal or procedural matter; it is what distinguishes a legal body from a political one. When the Office of the Prosecutor ignores the rules of jurisdiction of the Court, this encourages political exploitation of the Court and undermines the juridical integrity of this institution.

Israel, a state founded after the horrors of the Holocaust, was among the first states to support the idea of establishing an international criminal court. Nevertheless, Israel, like other states, did not join the Rome Statute due to concerns that the court would be exploited as a political tool rather than fulfilling its original purpose. Today, the Office of the Prosecutor has proven that these concerns were justified.
Ben-Dror Yemini: The ICC campaign of lies
The absurdity of allegations against Israel is twofold, firstly because the U.S. Army Chief of Staff and the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, not to mention other military experts, have repeatedly made it clear that Israel is the country taking the most strenuous measures to protect innocent lives.

Secondly, data shows that compared to other militaries around the world, Israel has far fewer civilian casualties during its military operations.

In this instance, Bensouda's behavior is reminiscent of the damning 2009 report by Richard Goldstone, commissioned by the UN after the first war between Israel and Hamas.

Neither individual hates Israel, but they are operating within a system that has been methodically brainwashed about "the crimes" of Israel.

The same is true of the media, academia, international institutions and now legal tribunals.

With this in the background, the decision to blame Israel specifically has a black flag hanging over it.

Goldstone, by the way, has retracted the claims published in the report that bares his name. Let's see if Bensouda ultimately does the same.
HonestReporting: Legally Blind: The International Criminal Court and Israel
Double Standards

There are 124 territorial disputes around the world and in exactly none of them is building homes in disputed territory prosecuted as a war crime. Not in places such as Russian-occupied Ukraine, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, or Morocco’s total takeover of Western Sahara.

Only Israel.

The law actually makes sense. Land disputes around the world often continue for years, even generations. During that time, life goes on, and individual people and communities need to be able to live and grow even as politicians work out their differences.

However, applying a unique law to Israel that is not applied to any other country, is, in a word, illegal.

But it gets worse.

Palestinians are not asking the International Criminal Court to halt all building activity during this dispute: rather they demand (in effect) that Jews, and only Jews, stop building homes in the region, while Muslims and Christians may continue.

Applying a unique law to Jews that is not applied to any other people or religion, is both illegal and racist.

Technical Issues
There are other, more technical problems. For example, as Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court, it is not clear that the court can even apply jurisdiction. Also, in the 1990s Israel and the Palestinian Authority entered into the Oslo Accords, agreeing to handle this dispute through direct negotiation rather than through international tribunals.

But technicalities aside, the most important thing is that laws must be applied universally to all people, regardless of race, religion or nationality. By not dismissing the Palestinian complaint out of hand, the ICC is already applying a unique double standard to the Jewish people, and to the Jewish state, that it does not apply to any other territorial dispute.

Most disturbing of all is the question of legal and moral precedent: the day we decide it is acceptable to interpret laws in a way that applies uniquely to Jews, we must ask ourselves…who’s next?

How Israeli Cooperation Delayed the ICC Move
While Israel rejected the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction, it cooperated with the ICC on a limited basis by providing counter-information to the charges being investigated by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who had threatened in mid-2015 to open a full war crimes trial if Israel did not provide her with information. Thus, Israel's decision to cooperate pushed off a full war crimes investigation from 2015 until late 2019.

The ICC Prosecution is much weaker now than in 2015, both because it is already in fights with the U.S., Russia and England, and because some of its major cases, like the Kenya case, have fallen apart. Many states have also withdrawn from the ICC's Rome Statute in recent years.

Moreover, Bensouda acknowledged that Israel had made a case that there were jurisdictional issues regarding "Palestine." And if a full criminal investigation starts before Bensouda leaves office, it will likely drag on for years. She is only in office until mid-2021.

In addition, Bensouda's legal brief does not make a determination about the compliance of Israel's legal system with international law. Under the Rome Statute, no full ICC investigation can be initiated until the ICC Prosecutor makes a finding that Israel itself has failed to probe the alleged war crimes. However, Israel initiated over 500 probes and more than 30 full criminal investigations of its own soldiers during the 2014 Gaza War. It has also published several extensive public reports about mistakes made by IDF forces during the 2014 War. This is important since mistakes cannot be war crimes because they lack intent.
Israeli Mayors near Gaza: "We Are Victims of War Crimes"
The Forum of Mayors of the Gaza border communities condemned International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's Friday announcement regarding an investigation into war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

"The prosecutor should come out here and see what 19 years of war crimes look like with civilians subjected to shelling day and night," they said adding that they are victims of the crimes while the IDF is trying to protect civilians.
Israel Gaza border resident to UN: Peace will come when Hamas stops terror
Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim, testified before the UN Security Council in its periodic hearing on the Middle East on Wednesday, December 18. She is the first Israeli who lives near the Gaza border to address the Security Council at the invitation of US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, who is serving as president of the Security Council this month.

How UN Watch fought dictatorships & defended human rights in 2019

Saudi military official: What if Arab states recognized Israel in 1948?
Appears to be from 2011?? (h/t Solomon2)
A prominent commodore (ret.) of the Royal Saudi Navy, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, speculated on what if the Arab states had recognized Israel following its declaration of independence in May 1948, in which he surmises that numerous reverberating political events would not have occurred throughout the Middle East in the ensuing years. The op-ed was published in Arab News, an English-language newspaper based in Saudi Arabia.

Acknowledging the context of the current regional lack of interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in part due to several crises facing Arab states in the region, Al-Mulhim argues that “since 1948, if an Arab politician wanted to be a hero, he had an easy way of doing it. He just needed to shout as loud as he could about his intention to destroy Israel, without mobilizing a single soldier.”

He further details that important regional political events, including the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt in 1952 by the Free Officers movement, led by Gamel Abdel Nassar, a pan-Arab nationalist and ardent foe of Israel, the subsequent Suez War in 1956, and the Six Day War in 1967 (incidentally, expanding Israeli territorial control beyond the 1947 partition plan), would have not occurred. The UN resolution that followed (242), and the 1970 War of Attrition, also, would not have occurred in this speculative scenario.

Israel’s growing strategic ties with the United States after 1967, Al-Mulhim notes, may have not occurred given the pre-1967 Israeli reliance on French and British weapons, and Washington’s reluctance to alienate Arab states in the region in which they were dependent on for oil.

Greece says huge gas pipeline deal with Israel, Cyprus to be signed January 2
The Greek government said Sunday that it will sign an agreement for a huge pipeline project with Cyprus and Israel next month that is designed to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

The move comes amid tensions with Turkey over its own activities in the area and a contentious maritime deal with Libya, expanding Ankara’s claims over a large gas-rich area of the sea.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s office said the agreement for the EastMed pipeline would be signed in Athens on January 2 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline will be able to transfer between nine and 12 billion cubic meters a year from offshore gas reserves between Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then on to Italy and other southeastern European countries.

The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a scramble for the energy riches and a dispute between Cyprus and Turkey, which has occupied the north of the Mediterranean island since 1974.
Turkish diplomat’s car torched in Greece amid tensions over energy exploration
A Turkish diplomat’s car was torched in Greece early Monday, police said, amid escalating tensions between the two NATO allies.

Nobody was hurt in the incident in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. The Turkish consular staffer’s car did not have diplomatic license plates, police said.

The two countries are locked in a row over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara recently completed a maritime border deal with Libya that it says grants it economic rights to a large swath of the eastern Mediterranean. But other countries in the region, including Greece and Cyprus, say the deal unlawfully truncates their own economic zones and impedes their rights to offshore exploration for hydrocarbons.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said the agreement means that no oil and gas exploration or any other “projects” can proceed in the area without Ankara’s permission.
Explosions near Damascus as Syrian army says it intercepts Israeli missiles
The Syrian army late Sunday night said its air defenses intercepted missiles coming from the direction of Israel that were aimed at targets on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, state media said.

Four cruise missiles were said to have been launched across the coast through Lebanese airspace toward Syria, a source in the regional alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad told Reuters.

Syrian state TV gave no further details but residents of Damascus said explosions could be heard near the capital. State TV said one of the Israeli missiles was shot down near the Damascus suburb of Aqraba.

There was also no immediate comment from Israel.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group that has activists around the country, said the missile attack targeted Iranian and Syrian military positions near Damascus.

There were no immediate reports on casualties.
3 Killed in Reported Israeli Strike in Syria
A war monitor said Monday that air raids in Syria the previous night, blamed on Israel, killed at least three foreign pro-regime fighters south of the war-torn country's capital. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday night's attack hit Syrian regime and Iranian positions south of Damascus. It said three non-Syrian loyalist fighters were killed by a rocket blast between the suburb of Aqraba and the nearby Sayyida Zeinab neighbourhood, home to a shrine revered by Shiite Muslims. It did not specify their nationality but said they were likely Iranian.

Palestinian shot after he crossed Gaza border, brandished knife at soldiers
A Palestinian man crossed the Gaza border fence and threatened IDF soldiers with a knife on Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In a statement, the army said the man was seen crossing the border. A unit dispatched to intercept him saw him brandish a knife as they approached. The soldiers opened fire at the man’s legs, wounding him.

He was treated by army medics at the scene and was rushed to an unspecified nearby hospital.

The incident took place along the border fence on the southern end of the Gaza Strip, near Al-Bureij, at approximately 11 a.m.

It followed violence last week along the Israel-Gaza border.

Two projectiles were fired Thursday from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, prompting retaliatory strikes by the Israeli military against Hamas positions.
Facing backlash, Israel says it’ll allow Christian Gazans to go to Jerusalem
Israel will grant permits to Christian Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank during Christmas “in accordance with security assessments,” the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, said on Sunday.

The announcement came some ten days after a COGAT spokeswoman told Reuters that Christian Palestinians from the coastal enclave would not be permitted to go to Jerusalem and the West Bank for the holiday.

COGAT’s initial statement to the news agency was blasted by Christian Palestinian leaders as well as Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors the movement of people into and out of Gaza.

“Other people around the world are allowed to travel to Bethlehem. We think Gaza’s Christians should have that right, too,” Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to local church leaders, told Reuters at the time.

Following the backlash, COGAT posted on its website in Hebrew and English last Sunday that it would make a maximum of 500 permits available to Christian Palestinians from Gaza to travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank “in accordance with security checks.” Hours later, however, it removed the posts from its website and its spokeswoman claimed they were mistakenly uploaded.
The Real Danger to Palestinian Christians Doesn’t Come from Israel
According to the official story, endorsed by local Christian religious leaders and often reported in the Western media, relations between Palestinian Christians and Muslims are good, and the reason for the Christians’ demographic decline is the Israeli “occupation.” The reality, writes Ashley Muse, is somewhat different:

Conducting research in the West Bank this past summer, I spent considerable time with Christian families around Bethlehem. One evening as I was eating dinner with a family, a mosque just outside their home broadcast verses from the hadith, [extra-Quranic Islamic teachings]. Shortly after the recitation ended, the father of my host family remarked, “They just cursed the Christians.” While they explained this did not happen every day, I was shocked to discover that Palestinian Christians, living in what used to be a Christian-majority town in the West Bank, are forced to listen to curses hurled at them from loudspeakers.

The situation for Christians is far more severe in Gaza than in the West Bank. After Hamas won a plurality in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, the organization used the power of the gun to take over the territory in June 2007 and imposed its radical Islamic ideology. Persecution of Christians here is masked by Hamas’s statements of goodwill toward Gaza’s small Christian population, which numbers fewer than 1,000 people. Declarations like the party’s 2017 political document prohibit religious bigotry and allow followers of other religions to “practice their beliefs in security and safety,” but these are empty sentiments and meaningless documents.

In reality, Hamas supporters and Salafi-jihadist groups like Swords of Righteousness and the Army of Islam target Gazan Christians with forced conversions, discrimination in schools, attacks on their businesses, and in some cases even martyrdom.
PMW: The Palestinian Santa: Victim, Fighter and even evil Trump
The PA loves to use the image of Santa Claus in its cartoons around Christmas to bolster its policy of demonizing Israel and Israelis.

Over the years the Palestinian Santa has been murdered by Israeli soldiers, fought Israeli soldiers, been frustrated as he was prevented from helping Palestinians, and was even an evil Santa giving gifts to Israel.

Santa as Victim:
This year’s Santa is given the most important part of the Palestinian identity – the victim.

Santa is a Palestinian refugee in Gaza wearing the “key of return”, whose hands are tied by the Star of David. Israel/Jews are preventing him from celebrating in Bethlehem. The cartoon appeared on the official Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. [Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 20, 2019]

Evil Santa is Donald Trump
PA daily cartoon depicts Trump as Santa, gifting Dome of the Rock and the Holy Sepulchre to Israel

Santa it seems is not always a positive image in Palestinian Authority cartoons. This cartoon is in response to Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The cartoon shows Trump dressed as Santa Claus giving the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to Israel, represented by a soldier with an Israeli flag on his helmet. [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily, Dec. 14, 2017]
Russia praises UNRWA at UN Security Council
On Wednesday, December 18th Russia's UN ambassador praised UNRWA during the UN Security Council's periodic hearing on the Middle East. He described the agency, which is now under investigation for charges of corruption and antisemitism, as having "a stabilizing effect on the Palestinian territories and Middle East countries."

German Parliament: Its Resolution to Ban Hezbollah is Just a Legal Charade
Germany, however, has refused to ban Hezbollah's "political wing," which continues to raise funds in the country. A German foreign ministry official, Niels Annen, has said that such a ban would be counterproductive because "we focus on dialogue." His comment has been understood to mean that the German government does not want to burn bridges with Hezbollah's sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"We don't have a military wing and a political one; we don't have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other.... Every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, is in the service of the resistance, and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority." — Hezbollah's deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem.

Germany's Social Democratic Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, however, has refused to ban Hezbollah in its entirety. He recently repeated the German government's distinction between Hezbollah's legitimate and illegitimate activities in Germany.

"It remains to be seen to what extent the German federal government will...actually 'exhaust all the resources of the rule of law' to stop Hezbollah's money laundering and terrorist financing in Germany." — Bild, December 19, 2019.

Bahraini Opposition Leader Praises Houthis, Calls on Bahrainis to Take Inspiration from Them
Bahraini Shiite Sheikh Abdullah Saleh, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Islamic Action Society, an Islamist political party in Bahrain, said in a lecture that was uploaded to the Internet on December 17, 2019 that the Khalifa clan that rules over Bahrain is an occupier that was brought to power by the British in order to control the region. He compared the Khalifa clan to the Saud clan, to Israel, and to the Zionists, saying that its goal is to strengthen Israel and the Gulf countries and to prevent the Arab people from becoming independent. Sheikh Saleh said that the only way the Bahrainis can regain their rights is by means of “serious, diligent, and continuous action,” and he praised the success of the Houthis in Yemen. He added that Bahrainis need to take Islam more seriously. Sheikh Saleh delivered his lecture against the background of an image of Imam Khomeini and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Second circuit of Iran’s Arak reactor to be completed Monday – reports
The second circuit of Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor is slated to go online on Monday, bringing it another stage closer to being fully operational, the country’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

While the move does not violate the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord, it does strengthen the country’s nuclear capabilities at a time when tensions between Tehran and Washington are on the rise.

The announcement came just over two months after Ali Asghar Zarean, an assistant to the chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, promised that the reactor system would be completed in two weeks.

Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s Arak nuclear site was to be reconfigured to make it unable to produce weapons-grade plutonium and another plant at Fordo was to stop enriching uranium.

Tehran subsequently removed the core of the Arak facility and filled part of it with cement as part of the deal, which granted the country relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Under the JCPOA, the reactor is to be modernized with the help of foreign experts and in October a team of British experts arrived in Iran to begin work upgrading the reactor.
1,500 Killed in Iran Protests
That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and a fourth official, set in motion the bloodiest crackdown on protesters since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15. The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police.

The toll of 1,500 is significantly higher than figures from international human rights groups and the United States. A Dec. 16 report by Amnesty International said the death toll was at least 304. The U.S. State Department, in a statement to Reuters, said it estimates that many hundreds of Iranians were killed, and has seen reports that number could be over 1,000.

The figures provided to Reuters, said two of the Iranian officials who provided them, are based on information gathered from security forces, morgues, hospitals and coroner’s offices.
The Iranian Regime Lies
The Iranian Foreign Minister has no problem preaching 'peaceful resolution' to the international community while his government commits violence abroad, as well as within their own borders.

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