How a top Israeli commander sees the Arab uprisings

This post, contributed by Paul Mutter, illustrates the evolving Israeli strategic thinking towards the Arab Spring and its consequences. Personally, I can understand this: the Arab uprisings means that Israel can no longer continue the same behavior as before. That must sting for the war criminal in charge of Cast Lead. [I.E.]

Some strange comments in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies by IDF Major General Eyal Eisenberg, former commander of the Gaza Division during Operation Cast Lead and newly appointed Home Front Command Chief, seem to be throwing everyone in the defense establishment into a tizzy. Although Ynet reports that the remarks were approved by military censors before the speech, the defense establishment is moving quick to denounce them and demand that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reign in Eisenberg.

Much of what Eisenberg apparently said is it not new and has been expressed before by Israeli officials: the Arab Spring is a catalyst for disorderEgypt is facing total national collapseTurkey needs to tone done its rhetoric over the flotillaHezbollah is further entrenching itself in LebanonHamas and Iran are plotting their next moves against Israel.

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Obama and the Gaza war, revisited

Report: Documents expose U.S. wiretaps of Israeli officials in Washington - Haaretz:

the Israeli Embassy in the United States provided “regular written briefings” on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza intended for "President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration."

Remember, back then when Obama was studiously ignoring the Gaza war and refusing to comment on it because "there is only one president at a time." Even though he commented on other things.

Did the PA kill the Goldstone report?

Asks Jared Malsin in FP:

GAZA--Israeli soldiers shot a mentally ill Palestinian man in the leg when he ventured near the Erez crossing, in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Last Wednesday, a 65-year-old man was shot in the neck in the same area. A week earlier the soldiers shot a 17-year-old, who entered the 300 to 500 meter "buffer zone" in northern Gaza to collect construction scrap which he hoped to sell for a few dollars. Human rights groups say there is a direct link between these daily shootings and the international community's failure to hold Israel accountable for past violations, especially during its 2008-2009 offensive on Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, most of them noncombatants. Fourteen Israelis also died. "The attacks [are] still going on, and the Israelis are taking the same stance as during Cast Lead. They're failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets," said Mahmoud Abu Rahma, of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza.

Last month, under US and Israeli pressure, the Palestinian Authority (PA), once again delayed the process of accountability. This came at a September 29 vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in which the PA backed a resolution to give Israel and Hamas officials in Gaza six more months to investigate crimes documented in Richard Goldstone's UN Fact Finding Mission report. According to Palestinian and international human rights groups, the Palestinian Authority has decided that the Goldstone report must remain in Geneva, away from the relatively more powerful UN bodies in New York. This is a position identical to that of the US State Department, which wants to keep pressure off Israel during the newly re-launched political negotiations.

On the contrary, the PA should be increasing pressure during negotiations. But Abbas is a good boy: he does what he's told.

Also, do bookmark Malsin's blog on Palestine.

Links for Dec.13.09 to Dec.16.09

â�© Egypt puts archives on Web to boost Arabic content | But what's the address? â�© Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities | Open Society Institute | Tons of interesting questions raised by this ground-breaking poll. â�© Abkhazia Is Recognized by Even Smaller Nauru - NYTimes.com | Sharqeya next? â�© Pro-Israel Lobby Group’s Iran Petition Features Lots of Questionable Names « The Washington Independent | Such as "Porn Sex Video" and Comfylovely". â�© LedgerGermane: Karzai Says Afghan Army Will Need Help Until 2024 | Yikes. â�© Future of US-Egypt Relations: A View from the Next Generation | Notes on another POMED event. â�© POMED Event: U.S. Military Assistance: Obstacle or Opportunity for Reform? | Steven Cook, Emile Hokayem, etc. some discussion of Egypt-US military relations. â�© Mideastwire.com | Zaitout: reports about Algeria-US agreement over temporary military bases | Handle with care. â�© British court issued Gaza arrest warrant for former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni | The Guardian | More of this please. â�© Nights to remember - The National Newspaper | Arabian Nights conference in NYU Abu Dhabi. â�© Obama's Big Sellout : Rolling Stone | Must-read Matt Taibbi story on Obama's bailout of Wall Street. â�© Al-Masry Al-Youm | Police raid home of prominent blogger | Wael Abbas sentenced to six months of prison in absentia for stealing his neighbors' internet??!?! â�© We will not bow to this Moroccan king | Paul Laverty and Ken Loach | Comment is free | The Guardian | Strongly worded op-ed for Aminatou Haidar. â�© David Ignatius - Jordan's ex-spy chief wasn't too good to be true | On former GID chief Saad Kheir - a dubious tribute. â�© Orientalism in Reverse | Brian Whitaker critiques Joseph Massad's "Gsy International" theory.
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Links for 10.13.09

Essay - The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate - NYTimes.com | Speaking of the Large Hadron Collider, this is pretty cool. ✪ BBC NEWS | Europe | 'Al-Qaeda-link' Cern worker held | Terrorist attack of potentially cosmic proportions: "The suspect had been working on the LHC Beauty (LHCb) experiment, which is investigating the slight differences between matter and anti-matter by studying a type of particle called the "beauty quark"." ✪ Kurdistan Halts Oil Exports - NYTimes.com | Over payment dispute with central government. ✪ AFP: Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail | In other words, a Hamas member is treated like an Egyptian. ✪ Erotic Poet Cavafy’s Trace Fades in Egypt’s Mythic Alexandria - Bloomberg.com | The usual nostalgia for cosmopolitan Alexandria. Do visit the Cavafy museum when in Alex, though. ✪ Loonwatch.com - "The Mooslims, they're heeere!" | A newish website that tracks Islamophobia, with a particular lookout for the kind of people who write for Middle East Forum and other reflexively anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sites. ✪ Middle East: a Belgian solution? | Khaled Diab | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | This is a funny, surreal headline but Khaled Diab is very misinformed about Belgian politics: the Belgian model is not pragmatic compromise, but rather wasteful deadlock. ✪ Ben Barka: Le dossier secret de la gendarmerie - affaire ben barka - leJDD.fr | Ben Barka's body said to have been incinerated outside of Paris. ✪ Tariq Ali: Ahmed Rashid's War | Nasty attack on Ahmed Rashid by Tariq Ali. Don't know if any of this is true, but Ali alleged Rashid operates on behalf of Hamid Karzai. ✪ Middle East News | Egypt detains 24 Muslim Brotherhood members | More zero-tolerance in Egypt towards people protesting in solidarity with Palestinians. ✪ Algerian Islamists in the Era of Reconciliation « The Moor Next Door | On the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brothers, and their relationship with the regime. ✪ New Statesman - Textbook injustice in Gaza | Gazan children go back to school with few textbooks, and anything else for that matter. ✪ FT.com / UK - Airline flies on natural gas | Qatar experiments with natural gas-derived kerosene, which makes sense for the country with the world's biggest gas fields. ✪ Netanyahu: No war crimes trials for Israelis - Yahoo! News | One day there will be many trials ya Bibi... and until then Israeli officials will be less and less able to travel abroad. ✪ Palestinian Memo says Hopes in Obama 'Evaporated' Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "JERUSALEM, (AP) – An internal document circulated among members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' political party says all hopes placed in the Obama administration "have evaporated" because of alleged White House backtracking on key issues to the Palestinians."
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Links for 10.08.09 to 10.09.09

‘Abuse’ of Islamic rule lands lawyer in court - The National Newspaper | About time someone stopped Nabih el Wahsh and his ridiculous hesba claims, but this needs to go further: a judicial ruling or new law should declare hesba unacceptable in courts.

Israel FM to tell U.S. envoy no peace deal possible | Lieberman always says what's on his mind.

Mideast sliding into 'darkness': Jordan king | Jordan's king does his Cassandra routine.

Sudan: SLM Warns US Envoy Not to Visit Darfur Areas Under Its Control Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "The Sudan Liberation Army Movement [SLM] led by Abdul-Wahid Nur who resides in France has warned US Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration not to visit the areas in Darfur that are under its control and where he is expected to hold a conference in the "Darbat" area in Murrah Mountain on 20 October."

Unjustifiable To Lose ‘Goldstone’ Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "It is not the time for point-scoring. Goldstone’s report marked the beginning of the international justice the Palestinian people need. The issue goes beyond political wrangling between Hamas and the PA, and also goes beyond the assumed price for slip ups. It is about responsibility for people’s lives."

‘The Times’ lets everyone off the hook on Goldstone | The NYT's continued hasbara on the Goldstone report.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | UN body to debate Gaza 'crimes' | Slated for 14 October.

Fatah seeks joint action with Hamas over Gaza report - Yahoo! News | About time.

ei: Abbas helps Israel bury its crimes in Gaza | Ali Abunimah: "Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people."

“The Challenge of Moderation in Islam: Egypt’s Religious Institution Versus Extremism.” | POMED notes on speech by Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa.

Palestine on the brink: only a quick de-escalation can prevent an explosion | Israel Policy Forum | Hussein Ibish.

Abbas Cancels Israel War-Crimes Report, Boosting Hamas - Yahoo! News | It's over for Abbas, morally now and politically eventually.

Saudi, Syria agree to 'remove obstacles' to closer ties - Yahoo! News | They also called for a NUG to be formed in Lebanon.

Security Council to raise UN Gaza report next week - Yahoo! News | Libya move to push for discussion of Goldstone report moves ahead, despite Mahmoud Abbas's failure to push for it (and his subsequent reversal.)

All these Abdelazizes | New head of Western Sahara mission MINURSO is Egyptian.

Oren likens Goldstone to… Nazi threat | Israel Ambassador to US Michael Oren: Goldstone = Nazis = Nuclear Annihilation.

Agents arrest dozens for theft scheme in US, Egypt | Egyptian hackers engage in $2m phishing scam.

Pew Forum: Mapping the Global Muslim Population | Pew report says there are 1.57bn Muslims, analysis and breakdown through maps and more.

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Links for 09.22.09 to 09.24.09

U.S. to block Goldstone Gaza referral to ICC - Laura Rozen | Great move for credibility on other war crimes! ✪ Iranians Favor Diplomatic Relations With US But Have Little Trust in Obama - World Public Opinion | Iranian poll. ✪ Free Mohammad Othman | Solidarity campaign for Palestinian activist Muhammad Othman, arrested September 22 while crossing the Allenby bridge. ✪ AFP: Egypt press: UNESCO loss shows 'clash of civilisations' | Nationalist backlash in reaction to Farouk Hosni's loss. ✪ The Lucrative Business of Israel-Bashing - Jeffrey Goldberg | Savor the irony of this headline from a professional Palestine-basher sitting on his lucrative perch in American journalism. The content of this post if pure invective, what Goldberg now is professional nastiness (as in his recent attacks on Stephen Walt.) ✪ The Associated Press: Fraud allegations at UNESCO race | Rumors that Egyptian delegates offered $50k bribes going around.
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On HRW's Marc Garlasco

The Guardian has picked up a story making the rounds in Israel about HRW's military researcher:

Tension between the Israeli government and Human Rights Watch, the international body that has been critical of the Israeli military's tactics in Gaza, has intensified over revelations that one of the watchdog's investigators is a collector of Nazi memorabilia. Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon intelligence officer, has reported for Human Rights Watch on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the two Israeli wars in Lebanon and Gaza. He is described as the watchdog's senior military expert. It has now emerged that he is also an avid collector of German and American wartime memorabilia, including awards badges handed out to soldiers working in the anti-aircraft Flak units. He is the author of a 430-page book on the Flak badges of the Wehrmarcht, and a regular contributor to two internet bulletin boards used by military collectors under his moniker Flak 88.
One may discuss the worthiness of military memorabilia, but I very much doubt this has anything to do with Garlasco's personal politics. I've known quite a few ex-soldiers and war journalists with obsession for military gear over the years, and most would not hurt a fly, never mind being admirers of the Nazis. Hundreds of people get into the geeky hobby of collecting medals, guns, and other memorabilia. That Nazi stuff is particularly prized is hardly surprising considering how glamorized they've become in movies since WW2 (the aesthetics, not the politics). My own grandfather, who fought (for the US) from the Normandy landings to the liberation of the concentration camps in Germany and the race to Berlin, kept a few trophies from SS officers. A few years ago I remember he gave my father a SS knife. While it looks cool, it's not displayed in the house (especially since so many people in the family suffered so much during the war, were fighting the Nazis, etc.) Anyway, the point of all this is to say while it appears clear from the above-linked article that Garlasco is not a Nazi sympathizer or some kind of right-wing militia man, I do know the following about him. I knew many reporters who covered the Gaza War that said, time and time again and separately, that Garlasco was an essential source of information on the hostilities. If you remember, international media were not allowed into Gaza from the Israeli side (and not until towards the end of the war from the Egyptian side) and many reporters gathered on a hill near the territory to observe the bombing campaign. It was also there that Israel's PR people would brief journalists. Garlasco spent much time there, using his military expertise to provide instant assessments of the types of weapons being used by the Israelis. He could immediately recognized the smoke patterns of some bombs as white phosphorus, becoming a key source in the now-confirmed used this weapon, which should not be used in populated areas. This is just one example of how someone with Garlasco's background can be incredibly useful to counter-act the propaganda of the IDF. It seems that some Israelis are aware of this fact, and are now trying to paint his hobby as some kind of evidence of anti-Semitism and Nazi-worship. Typical tactics from the people who have put HRW under tremendous pressure because of its reporting on war crimes during Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

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Links for 09.09.09 to 09.10.09

The Reporter’s Account: 4 Days With the Taliban - At War Blog - NYTimes.com | ✪ ISRAEL: Prime Minister Netanyahu's secret trip to...where? | Although Arab press said he went to an unnamed Arab country, it's more likely that secret trip was to Russia to meet Putin over military cooperation with Iran. ✪ RUSI The Gulf States and a fourth Gulf War | The GCC in the event of a confrontation with Iran. ✪ Israeli rights group says 320 minors died in Gaza war (AFP) | Israel's "War on Kids". ✪ Libyan Jihad Revisions — jihadica | Yet another jihadi revisionist book.
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Al Haq's report on Cast Lead

Do read al-Haq's report on the destruction wrought by Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza this winter, which contains tons of detailed data on the people and infrastructure destroyed by the IDF, such as this one: palestiniankilledincastleadalhaq.png They conclude (bolded mine):
On the basis of the data presented in this report, an analysis of the choice of targeted areas, methods of attack and the number of civilians killed and injured clearly indicates a reckless disregard for civilian life synonymous with intent. Further, it is clear that 'Operation Cast Lead' was not just an assault against the Palestinian population, but also against the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure and the livelihoods of its people, with factories, farms and other economic resources systematically targeted. Prima facie evidence exists of the commission of war crimes amounting to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, most notably wilful killing of civilians, including women and children; extensive destruction of property, both residential and commercial, public and private; and wilfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body or health. This is in addition to the fact that the resort to the use of force by Israel was unlawful in the first place. The denial of access to foreign journalists during the siege and Israel’s refusal to cooperate with various international investigation mechanisms that have been established are testament to a desire to suppress the truth and full information regarding the scale of the destruction wrought by this unprecedented attack. The figures contained in this report are intended to contribute to a growing database of documentary evidence on 'Operation Cast Lead'. More than six months after the end of operation, the Gaza Strip remains under siege. The continued border closures by Israel and the prevention of crucial supplies from entering Gaza, ensure that the humanitarian situation remains dire.
Incidentally, considering how detailed and important this report is, they should not have released it in mid-August, when few people are paying attention, but waited till September.
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Breaking The Silence II

Since the report Breaking The Silence [PDF] about Israeli war crimes and use of human shields during the Gaza War is not getting much coverage in the American and international press, I will be reproducing parts of it here. In this second installment, a soldier talks about the briefings received from top IDF brass:
Let's say that the general approach was 'we're going off to war' and i can swear i heard our brigade commander at least once, when sitting with us during maneuvers for a combatants’ talk around the campfire at tze'elim at night – he happened to join us and we asked him what was going on in gaza and what was to be expected, stuff like that, and he went so far as to say this was war and in war as in war, no consideration of civilians was to be taken. You shoot anyone you see. I'm paraphrasing here, not literally quoting, but the gist of the matter was very clear. How did people take this? Look, we're a pretty old company. We're a founding battalion, all of us are 33 years old, and we took this very skeptically, a bit fearful of the army's approach. I know for myself, i don't know what every single guy that night felt about it. I know personally that this pretty much disgusted me. There was a clear feeling, and this was repeated whenever others spoke to us, that no humanitarian consideration played any role in the army at present. The goal was to carry out an operation with the least possible casualties for the army, without its even asking itself what the price would be for the other side. This was the thrust of things that we heard from more than one officer.
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Breaking The Silence I

Since the report Breaking The Silence [PDF] about Israeli war crimes and use of human shields during the Gaza War is not getting much coverage in the American and international press (certainly the major papers - nothing in the NYT so far), I will be reproducing parts of it here.
Sometimes the force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield. Commanders said these were the instructions and we had to do it… Anyway, at the concluding debriefing, he (the unit commander) said he didn't know about these things, and the guys, commanders who had been there the first week, said they saw civilians being assigned to break walls and enter with rifle barrels on their shoulders. He said he didn't know this and would look into it. i think nothing substantial had been done about it, i'm also in touch with one of the officers there at present and I don't know if an investigation was made and nothing was found or that nothing was cleared up. several weeks later, the story came out in the paper about these exact incidents, where they were given sledgehammers to break walls, in our area, this i can say with certainty.
In the IDF they call this the Johnny procedure:
The method used has a new name now _ no longer 'neighbor procedure.' now people are called 'Johnnie.' they're palestinian civilians, and they're called Johnnies and there were civilians there who stayed in spite of the flyers the army distributed before it went in. Most people did leave, but some civilians stayed to watch over the houses. perhaps they had nowhere else to go. Later we saw people there who could not walk, some simply stayed to keep watch. to every house we close in on, we send the neighbor in, 'the Johnnie,' and if there are armed men inside, we start, like working the 'pressure cooker' in the West Bank. . . . the commanders tell what they saw and make sure we know how things work on the inside. they also talked about things that bothered them. they said that civilians were used to a greater extent than just sending them into houses. For example, some of them were made to smash walls with 5 kilo sledgehammers. there was a wall around a yard where the force didn't want to use the gate, it needed an alternative opening for fear of booby-traps or any other device. so the "Johnnies" themselves were required to bang open another hole with a sledgehammer.
Uri Avnery has an article about the Johnnies.
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Links for 07.18.09 to 07.20.09

Gambling with peace: how US bingo dollars are funding Israeli settlements | World news | The Guardian | More Moskowitz. There should be an international financial blockade against any institution involved in the settlements. 'U.S. tells Israel to halt East Jerusalem building' - Haaretz - Israel News | More on Irving Moskowitz's settlement plans. Asma Al Assad: Syria's First Lady And All-Natural Beauty (SLIDESHOW) | HuffPo celebrates the beauty of Asma al-Assad. Never mind her hubby being a dictator and all... WaPo bows cravenly to pro-Israel lobby | WaPo publishes inaccurate "correction" on Gilo settlement. De “Freej” à “Hamdoon” : le dessin cartonne aux Emirats | On the spread of homegrown cartoon characters in the UAE. French agents kidnapped in Somalia | Security trainers were posing as journalists and staying at journalists' hotel — can't say I feel any sympathy for them. Publier ici votre bilan des dix de règne - Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer! | Larbi, one of the best Moroccan bloggers, is inviting readers to send in their assessment of the first 10 years of Muhammad VI's reign. Breaking the silence | Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009 Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cementing the rift via dialogue | Update on Egypt-brokered Palestinian reconciliation talks after Ramallah meeting, takes the position that Fatah is sabotaging talks for electoral purposes. But does not acknowledge Egypt's acquiescence in this plan. The freegans' creed: waste not, want not | Environment | The Observer | Article on freeganism, i.e. eating free food that's been thrown away. Clearly only possible as a lifestyle in the first world. Somaliland's addict economy | GlobalPost | About Qat (also spelled Khat, the drug) in Somaliland. EGYPT: Poet accused of insulting Mubarak awaits final verdict | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Ridiculous. OpenStreetMap | Not bad alternative to Google Maps. For Cairo not bad, but Google is more detailed and in Arabic. Still, good effort that might improve, and does not lock us in to the G-Man. Revisiting Obama's Riyadh meeting | The Cable | So the idea that Obama came out empty-handed out of his pre-Cairo Speech meeting with Saudi King Abdullah is gaining ground. But it is ridiculous to imagine that Abdullah would pre-emptively agree to concessions before the Israelis have made even a single concession. Egyptian chronicles: Ahmed Rushdie-Barely-Speaks For The First Time | Very interesting post on former Egyptian minister of interior Ahmed Rushdie, described here as the only minister of the Mubarak era to have resigned and the only interior minister who was respected. (I don't know how true this is, but it's interesting!) International Crisis Group - 152 Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC | New ICG report on Sudan warns of laying off pressure on Khartoum over Darfur as focus shifts to the south and the CPA again. Among key recommendations to the ruling party is that Bashir should step down as soon as possible. US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat | Sharq al-Awsat interview, mostly on Syria. The Obama administration sure loves Saudi media. Palestinians aim for massive pastry record Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | I'm all for building the world's largest ball of twine or baking the biggest kunafa, but the reporting on this is over the top. Taboo Topics on Contemporary Foreign Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | Excellent post on the Ten Commandments of foreign policy wonks. You could add plenty more, but I would add (as far as Egypt is concerned) "Thou shall greet yesterday's oppressor as today's reformer, or vice versa if appropriate." Walt makes so many good points it's hard to choose a favorite, although #9 is up there.
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MIDEAST: Egyptians Too Hit by Israeli Strikes

MIDEAST: Egyptians Too Hit by Israeli Strikes
Reporting on Egyptian victims of Israel's Gaza war, who are still awaiting compensation for their destroyed homes. Concludes: "In the last four months, Rafah has been transformed into a militarised zone, with civilians forbidden to walk the streets of the city - except the main street - after 10pm," said Gabr. "Between the frequent bombardments and new security restrictions, Rafah is fast on its way to becoming a ghost town."
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