Wednesday, October 07, 2020

10/07 Links Pt1: Yom Kippur War: Through The Eyes of a Soldier; The PA's most dangerous enemy is archaeology; Olympics refuses to discuss Iranian regime’s murder of wrestler

From Ian:

Yom Kippur War: Through The Eyes of a Soldier
On Yom Kippur, 47 years ago, Israel was attacked by a coalition of Arab states, and was catapulted into war. For three weeks, Israeli soldiers fought tirelessly to defend their country from invading forces. Lt. Col. (Res.) Avi Gur was a young officer at the time, fighting in the 401st Armored Brigade on the southern front. The following photos were taken by Lt. Col. (Res.) Avi Gur during the Yom Kippur War. He explains what took place, in his own words:

“When the war began, I was on the front line. I was the deputy commander of a company in the Suez Canal and our goal was to hold back the Egyptian forces and keep them from carrying out acts of war against Israel. A few hours later, my commander was killed and I became the company commander.”

"This is a picture of my battalion commander, Lt. Col. Emanuel Sakal, from the first week of the war. The image reflects the IDF’s doctrine, according to which the commander is in the field side-by-side with the forces. This motivates the troops. Once I hit an enemy’s tank and he saw it in real time and complimented me on the radio."

"During the war, he asked me to mislead the Egyptian forces by getting them to think that we were going to attack from the south even though we were going to attack from the north. This was very hard for me because being successful meant getting them to fire at me. So what I did was drive in a zigzag motion in the sand, forming a huge cloud of dust. How did we survive? I don’t know. Some call it divine protection and others call it luck. After they started firing at us he said ‘we have achieved our goal’, and we quietly and carefully drove back."

The Yom Kippur War began on October 6, 1973. Thinking that the IDF would not be prepared to defend Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year, a coalition of enemy forces led by Egypt and Syria coordinated surprise attacks, invading the Golan Heights in northern Israel, and the Suez Canal in the south. The Israel Defense Forces was significantly outnumbered. It had far less equipment than the attacking countries, and little time to quickly develop a battle strategy.

"This picture shows the strength of one tank that could hit a target from more than a kilometer away. In the picture, you can see my tank cannon, and the black smoke in the background is the target we hit."

"When we ran to the tanks, I had a camera hanging around my neck. It was an unusual sight, because not many people had cameras at all back then. We started moving and there were Egyptian planes attacking us from above. Tanks were firing at us from the ground and Egyptian commando forces crossed the canal and fired anti-tank missiles. It was like the wild west – whoever shoots first, stays alive."
Egyptian TV airs Israeli FM’s speech on peace — on Yom Kippur War anniversary
An Egyptian television channel on Tuesday aired Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s remarks on regional peace, as he met in Berlin with his Emirati counterpart.

A spokesperson for Ashkenazi noted that the remarks were aired on Extra News on October 6, the 47th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, fought between Israel and its neighboring nations, including Egypt.

The spokesperson calls the broadcast “most extraordinary.”

Though the Egyptian government has close contacts with Israel, media in the country is known to generally be highly hostile toward the Jewish state.

In September, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi said that the Israel-United Arab Emirates normalization accord represents a step toward regional peace by preserving Palestinian rights and Israeli security.

The foreign ministers of the UAE and Israel met in Berlin on Tuesday for talks that Germany hoped will strengthen the nascent official ties between the two nations and bolster broader Middle East peace efforts, in a summit that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said was a “great honor” to host.

Ashkenazi and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met, along with Maas, behind closed doors at a secluded government guesthouse on the outskirts of the German capital.
ISIS monsters linked to beheadings of American aid workers and journalists brought to US and indicted
Two British Islamic State terror suspects known as the “Beatles” were indicted in the torturing and beheading of American aid workers and journalists among others once held hostage in Syria, according to court documents made public Wednesday. placeholder

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are two of four men dubbed “the Beatles” by the hostages they held captive, because of their British accents. They previously had been in military custody in Iraq and are expected to make their first appearance in the afternoon in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

The pair had been linked to the kidnapping and torturous killings of American aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller and journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley.

In a statement, relatives of Mueller, Foley, Sotloff, and Kassig said the transfer “will be the first step in the pursuit of justice for the alleged horrific human rights crimes against these four young Americans.”

The Justice Department announced the charges on Wednesday morning. They include conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, resulting in death; four counts of hostage-taking resulting in death for Foley, Mueller, Sotloff, and Kassig; conspiracy to murder United States citizens outside of the United States; conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists – hostage-taking and murder – resulting in death; and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death.

“Many around the world are familiar with the barbaric circumstances of their deaths – but we will not remember these Americans for the way they died, we will remember them for the way they lived their good and decent lives,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The indictment details how the pair “were leading participants in a brutal hostage-killing scheme targeting American and European citizens, and others, from 2012 to 2015.” They “engaged in a prolonged pattern of physical and psychological violence against the hostage,” the document further states.

The PA's most dangerous enemy is archaeology
Pundits will tell you that the most dangerous enemies of the Palestinian Arab cause are the Gulf kingdoms that have decided to recognize Israel, or the European countries that are moving their embassies to Jerusalem, or the American politicians who refuse to keep underwriting the Palestinian Authority's debts.

I disagree. I say that the Palestinians' most formidable foe is … archaeology.

A 2,000-years-old mikvah (ritual bath) was recently uncovered in the Lower Galilee. Most people probably would never have heard about the discovery if not for the dramatic photos of the entire structure being carried by truck to a nearby kibbutz for preservation.

The remarkable sight of a truck-borne mikvah, however, also makes one pause and reflect on the remarkable implications of the archeological find.

It means that 2,000 years ago, the residents of the Lower Galilee were practicing the exact same religious rituals that Orthodox Jews throughout the world practice today. Those Galileans, in other words, were Jews. They weren't "Palestinians." The word "Palestine" had not yet been invented. They weren't Arabs or Muslims – the invasion of the Land of Israel by Muslim fundamentalists from the Arabian Peninsula was still 600 years in the future.

The news of the ancient mikvah must have been quite a disappointment to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. On Sept. 25, he told the UN General Assembly: "The Palestinian people have been present in their homeland, Palestine, the land of their ancestors, for over 6,000 years."

Those meddling archaeologists and their discoveries keep getting in the way of Palestinian propaganda!
UAE-Israel accord could bring new sparkle to Dubai diamond trade
The week that Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized ties, Israeli diamond trader Zvi Shimshi headed to the United Arab Emirates to open a company in Dubai, a regional trade hub that is a major center for the precious stones.

He is among 38 Israelis whom the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), home to Dubai Diamond Exchange, said have recently contacted it to set up a presence, in a sign of how shifting regional politics could alter global trade dynamics.

Traders in Dubai say they have been inundated with enquiries from Israelis, who traditionally trade in Belgium's Antwerp -- the world's biggest center for traders of rough and polished diamonds.

South African company Trans Atlantic Gems Sales (TAGS), which auctions and tenders diamonds in Dubai, had close to 50 Israeli firms interested in participating in tenders register with the company in just a few weeks, said owner Anthony Peters.

"It's a massive game changer," Peters told Reuters.

Dubai, with $21.2 billion in diamonds traded last year according to DMCC, and Israel, with around $12 billion according to its exchange, are the Middle East's main diamond centers.

Israeli NGO tackles tax benefits for 'hostile' organizations
A document put out by the Israel Tax Authority recently and obtained by Israel Hayom, indicates that the government is unwilling to supply information about hundreds of millions of shekels worth of tax exemptions given to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and other international organizations operating in Israel, some of which are defined as hostile to Israel.

Now, an Israeli NGO is gearing up to file a petition against benefits for these organizations with the Jerusalem Administrative Court.

Lavi, a nonprofit that works for civil rights and good governance, originally reached out to the Defense and Finance ministreis, whose heads have the authority to decide what organizations will receive tax emptions, but the ministries referred Lavi to the ITA.

Lavi asked the ITA for the following information: the names of the organizations that enjoy the tax exemption; the total amount of the exemption; and the criteria according to which decisions are made whether or not to grant the benefit to the organizations.

The ITA declined to supply the information, saying "We are denying your request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law, which states that a public entity will not provide information whose disclosure could harm national security; foreign relations; public safety; or the safety and security of individuals."

Benefits to international organizations include a hefty discount on the purchase of fuel at a 0% VAT rate and an exemption from per-unit taxes. These exemptions were originally granted to ease the work of international aid organizations that operate in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip.

In June, the Knesset Finance Committee held a meeting on the issue of these exemptions, during which a representative of the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories argued that the beneficiaries included not only UN-affiliated groups, but also some international groups who operate against Israel.
Israeli Diplomat Sarah Weiss Maudi Appointed as UN Legal Committee Vice Chair
Israeli diplomat Sarah Weiss Maudi has been appointed to serve as the UN Legal Committee’s vice chair for the 75th General Assembly, it was announced on Tuesday.

Weiss Maudi will represent the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) and be the first Israeli woman to fill the role.

Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan called Weiss Maudi’s appointment “an important achievement that also has a direct connection to the peace agreements we have signed and shows the potential for Israel to influence the organization.”

“Just as she has contributed greatly to the work of the Israeli Mission, I am sure that Sarah’s rich legal experience will contribute to the operations of the UN,” Erdan added.
Rep. Castro Seeks to Welcome Palestinians Before Foreign Affairs Committee
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who is running for the chairmanship of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee following the loss of current chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in the New York primary race, promised on Monday to have Palestinian voices appear before the powerful committee.

“I think if you’re going to be the sole broker, then you’ve got to be willing to listen to all sides to take that in. And then as you go forward, be better in your job of brokering a peace agreement,” said Castro in a J Street webcast. “For the long-term stability of both Israel and the Palestinians, I think the United States, especially on the congressional level, being able to hear the different voices would actually be helpful. And so I hope that we can make that happen next term.”

“It makes it easier at that point to bring them back to the table because they feel more confident that not just a team of diplomats negotiating an agreement, but that the American Congress and the American people have heard their perspective,” he added. “That goes beyond symbolism. I see that as a very substantive thing.”

Additionally, Castro reiterated his stance on conditioning US assistance to Israel on the Jewish state not applying sovereignty to the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu stokes ‘cautious optimism’ as positive virus tests slide downward
Becoming the first Israeli to take a new 15-minute coronavirus test hoped to be rolled out across the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said there was reason for “cautious optimism” that Israel was on the way out of its raging second virus wave.

“We have the first signs of cautious optimism that we are curbing the pandemic, but it is too early to say,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the Neve Horim nursing home in Jerusalem, where he took the “Sofia” coronavirus test, which the Prime Minister’s Office said came back negative. US firm Quidel’s Sofia machines test swab samples for virus proteins to provide their swift results.

Netanyahu’s comments came as data indicated that the curve of infection had begun to flatten, following several days of dropping “positivity rate” — the percentage of virus tests that return positive.

Preliminary Health Ministry figures showed Tuesday evening that the rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive was down to 10.2%, the lowest number seen since mid-September.

It’s unclear if the rate would stay as low, as it typically rises once final numbers for a day are available. Monday saw a positivity rate of 11.4%, still lower than previous highs of some 15%.
Israel Extends COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions by a Week
The Israeli government on Tuesday extended by a week a law heavily restricting demonstrations and indoor prayers during the current nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Ministers approved the extension via a telephone referendum put forward by Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. The legislation, approved by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee last week, will now remain in effect until at least Oct. 14.

The law restricts protests to a maximum of 20 people at a time, in open spaces, and protesters may not travel more than 1,000 yards from their residence to attend. Accordingly, thousands of people participated in hundreds of anti-government protests in various locations around the country on Tuesday, mostly gathering on bridges and at intersections near their homes.

In terms of an exit strategy from the current lockdown, some ministers on Tuesday echoed comments by National Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronni Gamzu and called for the replacement of the blanket lockdown with “differential restrictions,” easing the restrictions on cities and towns with lower rates of infection while keeping most restrictions in place in areas with high levels of infection.

In the Haredi sector, meanwhile—which has come under fire in recent days over reportedly widespread disregard for lockdown restrictions during the Sukkot holiday—Knesset representatives appear to be altering their all-or-none approach to the pandemic.
Lockdown is slowing virus spread, but hospitals still have it ‘worse than ever’
The situation in Israel’s hospitals is at its most dire, and could remain bad for weeks, according to doctors, despite signs that the lockdown is working and coronavirus cases are dropping.

“It’s worse than ever,” Dr. Guy Choshen, director of the coronavirus department at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

“If we see a decline in national numbers testing positive, we’ll only feel it in two to three weeks,” he added, noting that it often takes a significant amount of time after diagnosis for patients to deteriorate into a state that requires hospitalization.

At the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Eyad Jeries said he was pessimistic about the prospect of his workload easing, and commented: “I really never thought we’d get to this situation, even when the second wave started.”

Jeries, head nurse in the department for the most serious COVID-19 patients, expressed doubt that the number of patients, especially those on wards like his for critical cases, would drop before the so-called twindemic effect — some health experts predict flu season will begin while the population continues to battle the coronavirus — kicks in.

“I’m not optimistic, even though infection numbers are falling,’ he said. “I think within a month, because of flu, I’ll actually be caring for more ventilated patients than I am now.”

Two and a half weeks after Israel became the first country to reimpose a lockdown, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday expressed “cautious optimism,” after seeing the number of positive diagnoses falling well below the all-time high of 9,053 seen a week ago. Also on Tuesday, the share of coronavirus tests coming back positive fell to its lowest level in weeks, according to Health Ministry figures.
Phase II COVID-19 placenta cellular therapy trial to launch in Israel
The Haifa-based company Pluristem announced Wednesday that it has received approval from the Health Ministry to expand an existing Phase II clinical trial of its treatment for COVID-19 to Israel.

A total of 40 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 complicated by Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) will now be enrolled at clinical sites in Israel and Germany, following a protocol that was approved by Germany’s regulatory agency.

“We believe that the approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health will enable us to advance the treatment of severe COVID-19 patients,” Pluristem CEO Yaky Yanay said. “As the pandemic continues in Israel, we see it as our mission to treat those severe patients in need.”

Pluristem is treating COVID-19 patients with its PLX-PAD novel, placenta-derived cellular therapy.

Yanay explained to The Jerusalem Post that accumulating evidence shows that many of the patients who fall victim to coronavirus die because of an increase in the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokine, rather than the virus itself.
Pirate coronavirus testing ring busted
Police have opened an investigation into the conduct of 'pirate' coronavirus tests throughout the country in which the suspects collected sums estimated at tens of thousands of shekels that they pocketed.

There are five suspects who have been arrested, all of whom are volunteers for Magen David Adom.

The investigation was opened after the organization's management complained about a suspicion that coronavirus tests were being performed on civilians in an illegal manner by MDA volunteers, for a fee.

With the arrest of the first suspect for interrogation, police investigators revealed the method of the illegal operation, which involved other suspects, including other volunteers and laboratory owners in Israel and Ramallah.

The investigation also revealed that the suspects came to various places in Israel and also to Ben Gurion Airport, in order to perform coronavirus tests, some of which were allegedly carried out in such a way that their results were guaranteed to come out negative so that their 'customers' could enter and leave the country as they wished. After the pirate tests were performed, the suspects would transfer the tests to a laboratory in the Palestinian Authority and a private laboratory in Jerusalem, with the aim that their results would not find their way into the Health Ministry database and thus remain anonymous.

The Current US Approach to Turkey Is Absurd
Does it matter that Turkey appears to think that it can relitigate the outcome of World War I? That’s the question observers were forced to confront last week when its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, opened that country’s parliament with a speech about the status of Jerusalem.

The Islamist government Erdogan leads is among the leading boosters of the Palestinian war against Israel’s existence, as well as an ally of the Hamas terrorists in Gaza. But the Turkish leader’s remarks weren’t framed as a response to American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or the peace and normalization agreements reached between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Rather, it was an argument that Jerusalem belongs to the Turks, rather than the Jews or the Arabs.

Neither Israel nor the United States is worried that Turkey will try to implement this absurd ambition. But the Erdogan government’s recent moves, coupled with its outrageous statements, do call into question the Trump administration’s apparent belief that Turkey can or should be encouraged to continue on its present course. The Jerusalem speech is — like Turkey’s alleged role in encouraging a renewal of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and its aggressive attitude towards the efforts of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel to work together on natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean — a signal that can’t be ignored. Either Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden will need to be as focused on the threat from Turkey in the future as they are on Iran.

Erdogan’s Jerusalem claim was a reference to the fact that the Turkish Ottoman Empire governed the land of Israel for centuries. The Turks were evicted from Jerusalem and the rest of the country by Great Britain during World War I. The Ottomans had picked the wrong side by allying with Germany, and at the conflict’s conclusion, the British and French victors were able to carve up their vast empire. Among other things, it left Britain in possession of a League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in which they were charged to make good their Balfour Declaration promise to assist with the building of a national home for the Jewish people.
Turkey’s EU Membership Bid Evaporating
The European Union’s executive said on Tuesday that Turkey’s government was undermining its economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts, leaving Ankara’s bid to join the EU further away than ever.

Blaming "excessively" centralized presidential power for deteriorating conditions in freedom of speech, prisons and the central bank, the European Commission said the government was also exposing Turkey to "rapid changes in investors’ sentiment".

"The EU’s serious concerns on continued negative developments in the rule of law, fundamental rights and the judiciary have not been credibly addressed by Turkey," the Commission said in its annual report on the country.

"Turkey’s (EU) accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill," it said.

A NATO ally, Turkey has been negotiating its EU membership since 2005 after economic and political reforms that made it an important emerging market economy and trade partner.

Although never easy because of disputed Turkish claims over Cyprus, talks rapidly unravelled after a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016 and President Tayyip Erdogan’s ensuing crackdown on perceived opponents.

"In Turkey, the serious backsliding observed since the 2016 coup attempt continued," the Commission said.

There was no immediate comment from Turkey. Ankara has said in the past that EU criticism is unfair and disproportionate.
US Court Orders Iran to Pay $1.4 Billion in Damages to Missing Former FBI Agent’s Family
A US court has ordered the government of Iran to pay more than $1.4 billion in punitive and compensatory damages to the family of a former FBI agent who disappeared during a visit to an Iranian island in March 2007.

In a decision issued late last week, US District Judge Timothy Kelly said that he adopted a special expert’s recommendation that Robert Levinson’s family be awarded $107 million in compensatory damages. The judge awarded punitive damages of $1.3 billion.

In a statement, Levinson’s family welcomed the judge’s ruling.

“This judgment is the first step in the pursuit of justice for Robert Levinson, an American patriot who was kidnapped and subjected to unimaginable suffering for more than 13 years,” Levinson’s family said.

“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions. Judge Kelly’s decision won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage taking by Iran,” the family said, adding: “We intend to find any and every avenue, and pursue all options, to seek justice for Robert Levinson.”

A spokesman for Iran’s United Nations Mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russian Ambassador Says He Has ‘No Problem’ Selling Missiles To Iran
Russian ambassador to Iran Levan Jagarian told Iranian state media he has "no problem" selling state-of-the-art missiles to Tehran following the end of an arms embargo later this month, Fox News reported Monday.

A United Nations embargo currently forbids the sale of Russian S-400 missiles to Iran, though it is set to expire on October 18.

The S-400 missile system is effective at one of the highest distance and altitude ranges of any air defense weapon, and has become a highly sought-after device for American rivals.

Previous statements from the Kremlin point to a strong likelihood that a sale will come soon after the embargo’s end.

"The Security Council in that resolution said that the supply of arms to Iran and from Iran would be subject to consideration by the Security Council and that on October 18, 2020, this regime of sales to Iran would stop," said Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in another interview late last month. "There is no embargo, and there would be no limitations whatsoever after the expiration of this timeframe established by the Security Council."

While new rounds of sanctions from Washington—including the unilateral "snapback" sanctions—have curtailed the economy and overall military expansion of Iran, Tehran continues to seek help from American adversaries. This summer, overtures from Tehran for security assistance have reached dangerous actors such as Moscow and Beijing.
Olympics refuses to discuss Iranian regime’s murder of wrestler
The agenda for Wednesday’s International Olympic Committee executive board meeting omits the Iranian regime’s execution of the champion wrestler Navid Afkari, prompting calls for IOC president Thomas Bach to include Afkari's execution in its agenda and sanction the clerical regime in Tehran.

When asked by The Jerusalem Post if the IOC plans to sanction Iran’s regime and raise Afkari in its agenda, an unnamed committee spokesperson said that, “For your information, you will find here the schedule for tomorrow’s IOC Executive Board committee's meeting.”

The IOC schedule sent to the Post omitted Afkari.

Rob Koehler, the Director General of Global Athlete, a sports human rights advocacy organization, wrote on Twitter: “The Olympics Executive Committee meets Wednesday 7 October… How about under miscellaneous you include: 1. Suspending Iran @Olympic_ir #Justice4Navid #navidafkarai.” Koehler included the Twitter handle for Iran’s Olympic chapter and the hashtags in support of Navid Afkari.

The international outcry over the IOC and Bach's failure to include Afkari in its agenda on Wednesday sparked former Olympic Iranian wrestler Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known as The Iron Sheik, to tweet to his over 518,000 followers on Tuesday: “AS FORMER OLYMPIC WRESTLER I DEMAND THE THOMAS BACH IOC PRESIDENT OF THE @Olympic@iocmedia YOU INCLUDE THE CASE OF THE IRANIAN REGIME MURDER OF INNOCENT CHAMPION THE NAVID AFKARI FOR TOMORROW AGENDA AND SANCTION IRAN”S REGIME.”
Brothers of executed Iranian wrestler held in solitary confinement
An Iranian regime prison guard beat the brothers of executed wrestler Navid Afkari, Vahid and Habib, who are now being held incommunicado, raising growing fears that “something bad is in store for them, too,” according to a Monday report on the website IranWire.

The news site reported that “A source close to the devastated Afkari family said it had been more than 16 days since they have had any news of the brothers. The information they had received prior to this was contradictory in places, exacerbating their worries. The family understands that Vahid and Habib are in solitary confinement, and have now recovered after recently being beaten by a prison guard.”

The source told IranWire: “Judiciary and prison officials are misleading the family. The prison officials say it’s out of their hands; they say they have orders from higher up not to transfer them [Habib and Vahid] to public wards and to keep them in solitary confinement.”

The source continued that “The brothers do not have the right to visitation or a phone call, and upon going to the deputy prosecutor supervising the prison, they were told they were not allowed to talk to their family.”

IranWire said that the brothers were stripped of their legal right to make a telephone call.

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