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Israel Weekly War Summary January 21-27, 2024

Overview

  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) released its initial ruling on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel and did not demand the immediate cessation of the war or ask the IDF to withdraw from Gaza. However, the ICJ issued a few injunctions, that do not legally require any practical change in Israeli policy.

  • In an unprecedented decision by the Biden administration, the US decided to halt funding UNRWA after the State Department reviewed evidence presented by Israel which demonstrated that 12 of the organization’s employees actively participated in the October 7th massacre. More countries, including France, the UK, New Zealand and others joined the move in an unprecedented domino effect that reflects a positive trend for Israel in the global view of UNRWA’s role in the war.

  • US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in a month saying that he does not want the war to continue for a year. Top Biden officials have indicated that the White House is very concerned about a prolonged war ahead of the upcoming US elections in November.

  • The US State Department’s Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, returned to the US after talks in Doha and Cairo regarding a possible hostage deal failed to result in an agreement.

  • The heads of Mossad, CIA, Egyptian Intelligence, and the Qatari PM are planning to meet in Europe to discuss a hostage deal which would include the release of all hostages in exchange for a prolonged pause in fighting.

  • Netanyahu’s comments about the problematic role that Qatar plays in being the interlocutor of the negotiations with Hamas whilst funding Hamas, leaked to the public, which caused a diplomatic crisis with Qatar.


  • Khan Younis is completely surrounded, with only its western part remaining unconquered. It appears to be just a matter of days before Khan Younis, the last major Hamas command center, falls which would be a defining moment of the war.

  • Israel suffered the largest number of IDF casualties on a single day since the beginning of the war – 24. The soldiers had installed explosives inside a building when Hamas terrorists fired an RPG missile towards the building, causing the explosives to detonate which collapsed the building with the soldiers inside.

  • The Hamas terrorists in Northern Gaza, an area operationally controlled by Israel, continued their efforts to reassemble their broken battalions and continue their attacks against IDF troops in Jabalia, Zaitun and Juhor adDik using antitank missiles and IEDs.

  • The Iraqi Foreign Minister revealed that conversations between the Iraqi and American governments regarding the gradual removal of American forces from Iraq have commenced.

  • Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq continued attacking American bases in northeastern Syria, Erbil International Airport in Erbil Province, Iraq, and Ain al Asad airbase in Anbar Province, Iraq. American forces retaliated prompting Iraqi politicians to criticize their presence in Iraq.

  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a joint statement on the Israel-Hamas war and Iranian-Turkish relations after Raisi’s visit to Ankara on January 25th

  • The US and the UK placed sanctions on several Houthi officials and continued their aerial bombardment campaign on Houthi infrastructure.


 


IDSF Weekly War Summary 17 - January 28 - February 3 2024
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International

 

  • The International Court of Justice – ICJ released its initial ruling on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel. South Africa did not achieve its initial objective of a decision for the immediate cessation of the war or require the IDF to withdraw from Gaza. However, the ICJ issued a few injunctions, most of them declarative that do not legally require any practical change in Israeli policy. The ICJ’s most practical injunction was the ruling Israel would have to report back to the ICJ in a month on its compliance with the issued measures which could potentially open the door for future practical rulings against the IDF. Other than that, the ICJ’s rulings were generally declarative rulings which included asking Israel to abide by international law, not commit genocide, facilitate more humanitarian aid, preserve evidence of potential violations of international law and persecute incitements to commit genocide including statements from politicians. The last ruling regarding taking measures against incitement to genocide is not rooted in the Israeli Criminal code and could not be enforced on members of the Knesset who enjoy immunity, although Israel’s attorney General has made statements that considers calls for harming of civilians as incitement. The ICJ took note of the Attorney General’s comments but said that they do not go far enough. Overall, the ruling is seen as a win for Israel, however it did inflict some diplomatic and public relations damage. The ICJ heavily criticized Israel for the killing of Palestinian civilians and causing destruction but avoided any specific actions that would compel Israel to change its policy. The Court also recognized Hamas’ massacre that inflicted the murder of over 1,400 Israelis, where thousands were wounded and some 250 were illegally taken hostage. The ICJ’s President read the ruling for over the course of 30 minutes, with a very critical tone towards Israel focusing on the suffering and destructions in Gaza.

  • Ahead of the ICJ’s ruling on Friday regarding South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, Israel’s security cabinet presented the protocols of more than 30 orders it issued to protect Gaza civilians in order to counter genocide claims. The documents included emails and correspondence between military and political leaders about their actions intending to minimize collateral damage. The main consequence is the tarnishing of Israel’s global image and formally associating it with genocide. Some headlines in world media read “UN court rules Israel must prevent genocidal acts in Gaza”, suggesting that Israel was committing a genocide and ordered to stop. This case is causing damage to Israel in the global campaign to winning ‘hearts and minds.’ Israel will be implicated in the alleged genocide case for years to come in the global public opinion as it will take years to litigate this case in the ICJ.

  • Reactions to the ruling:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the ICJ for accepting the case in the first place expressing that the Israel is committed to international law and to protect civilians. He continued that the attempt to deny Israel’s right to defend itself is discriminatory and antisemitic. Netanyahu noted that the ruling on Friday occurred only two days before the UN observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day. He stressed that the war is against Hamas and not civilians and that Israel will do everything in its power to minimize civilian casualties although Hamas makes it more difficult to do so.

  • South Africa’s Foreign Minister), Naledi Pandorhas, expressed satisfaction over the ruling although she added that it did not go far enough. South Africa’s government TV channel SABC reported “ICJ rules in favor of SA”. Pandorhas expressed satisfaction that the ICJ took measures to protect civilians and increase humanitarian aid.

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed the ruling claiming it as a win for South Africa.

  • Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the decision saying that it will contribute to Israel’s isolation and the decision is a step-in uncovering Israel’s crimes.

  • In an unprecedented decision by the Biden administration, the US decided to halt funding UNRWA after the State Department reviewed evidence presented by Israel that 12 of the organization’s employees actively participated in the October 7th massacre. UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said he has terminated the contracts of the accused staff members and launched an investigation to “establish the truth without delay in an attempt to appease the US. The UN plans to conduct an “urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA,” according to Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres. State Department Spokesman, Matthew Miller, has spoken with Guterres and has said that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support”, showing that the State Department’s decision does not indicate a comprehensive change in approach towards UNRWA. The EU’s Head of EEAS and VP of the Commission Josep Borrell also commented on the UNRWA investigation and said that he is deeply troubled by it and the EU will consider taking steps based on the results of the investigation. It is to be mentioned that reportedly, Israel was surprised by the publication of the data by UNRWA itself, and was planning on maintaining UNRWA as an intermediate responsible for welfare for Palestinians in Gaza until the end of the war, when it planned to dismantle it.

  • Biden spoke with Netanyahu for the first time in a month saying that he does not want the war to continue for a year. Top Biden officials have indicated that the White House is very concerned about a prolonged war ahead of the upcoming US elections, as this is an issue that turns off many young Democratic voters who disapprove of Biden’s policies. Biden’s campaign team cannot have the war and the rising death toll dominate the news cycle, a source told Axios.

  • The Syrian and Russian air forces held joint military patrols of the airspace along Syria’s borders including in the Golan Heights area. The Russian Defense Ministry said such joint patrols are expected to be a regular occurrence. This may indicate a change in Russian policy in order to deter Israeli actions in Syria and Lebanon to preserve their assets and allies in the region.

  • The UN security council convened a special meeting to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has said that Israel’s rejection of the two-state solution is unacceptable. He also said that nothing could justify what he called the collective punishment of Gaza through incredible levels of destruction.

  • Joseph Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said in front of a gathering of European foreign ministers that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is abysmal and that Israel’s strategy to destroy Hamas is wrong. He said that he won’t speak of peace, but it is necessary to speak of a concrete roadmap towards a two-state solution including the possibility of forcing this solution on Israel using sanctions.

Gaza Strip

Diplomatic

  • This weekend, the heads of Mossad, CIA, Egyptian Intelligence, and the Qatari PM are planning to meet in Europe to discuss a hostage deal which would include the release of all hostages in exchange for a prolonged pause in fighting.

  • The US State Department’s Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, returned to the US after talks in Doha and Cairo regarding a possible hostage deal failed to result in an agreement. Hamas has so far rejected Israel’s proposal of a 60 day pause in fighting in exchange for releasing the remaining hostages. John Kirby, the NSC spokesperson, indicated that for the time being there is no horizon for a future deal. He also said that the US would support a long humanitarian pause in fighting. Reportedly, Israel rejected an American-Egyptian-Qatari offer to end the war in 90 days during a process in which the hostages would be released. Hamas official Osama Hamdan has said that the Israeli offers such as exiling Hamas officials are out of line and no resistance organization could agree to them. Hamas’ counteroffers of preserving its regime through international guarantees, cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of IDF troops from Gaza and a non-starter for Israel. However, for the first time since the previous hostage deal Hamas is showing signs that it is interested in discussing an Israeli offered deal for a prolonged ceasefire without guarantees of ending the war. This demonstrates that Hamas responds to military pressure, as for the last weeks it was adamant that there would not be any deals discussed unless Israel stops the war and withdraws its troops.


  • Israeli PM Netanyahu approved the entrance of 150 trucks filled with 24,000 tons of flour to Gaza, and 114,000 tons of flour in the future- an amount large enough for six months. This decision comes at the request of the US government, amid intense domestic political pressure within the Netanyahu led government. Netanyahu’s comments about the problematic role that Qatar plays in being the interlocutor of the negotiations with Hamas whilst funding Hamas leaked to the public, which caused a diplomatic crisis with Qatar. Qatar in a very out of the ordinary manner reprimanded Netanyahu directly, saying they are “appalled” with his comments and accused him of sabotaging a potential deal which would also save Israeli lives. The US State Department issued a statement saying that Qatar is an integral irreplaceable regional partner. This comes after the US renewed its agreement with Qatar to continue operating its largest base in the Middle East in Qatar for 10 more years. It is to be mentioned that Qatar has been a primary lifeline for Hamas prior to the war with over $30 million USD of financial aid each month, as well as playing a double game by hosting Hamas’ senior leadership in Doha while engaging in dialogue with Israel and the US.

  • Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, is reported to have ignored Netanyahu’s calls amid a fierce Egyptian refusal to accept a reality in which Israel control’s the Philadelphi Line and extending the Israeli-Egyptian border. Egypt is adamant in its rejection of Israeli control of the Philadelphi Line. It is worried that Israeli control would allow it to send Palestinian refugees to its territory. Egyptian sources have told the Wall Street Journal that El-Sisi’s generals were alarmed by the rhetoric used by Israeli politicians and Israeli media in November that Gaza’s population should be forcibly moved to Egypt. Egyptian military intelligence found no evidence of a plan to expel the Palestinians, but the statements convinced Egypt’s government that there was such a secret Israeli program. Egyptian officials have told the Wall Street Journal that the continuation of the war threatens the Egyptian state with loses of 40% of its revenues via the Suez Canal this year compared with the same period last year, while the Suez Canal Authority reported ship transit traffic declined around 30%.

  • Saudi Arabia and four other Arab countries are working on a plan to rebuild Gaza which would leave Israel controlling the Strip militarily, and a reformed Palestinian Authority governing the day-to-day affairs. This is consistent with the countries’ concerns of the war’s expansion to a larger, regional war and their interest in pursuing a comprehensive normalization deal with Israel.

  • Hamas released a document named, “Our version of Al Aqsa Flood” which outlined the Hamas propaganda regarding the events of October 7th. Hamas claimed that its fighters refrained from harming civilians including the elderly, women and children consistent with Islamic law. It claimed that Al Qassem brigades only targeted soldiers and that Hamas treated hostages in Gaza warmly and kindly. Hamas continues to perpetuate the lie that the IDF and Israeli Police killed their own civilians in the early chaotic moments on October 7.

  • Khaled Al-Qaddumi, Hamas’ representative in Iran expressed that Hamas is not merely a Palestinian movement but a global, Muslim movement that acts throughout the free world. He added that Hamas is active in the US, UK and 5 continents. He mentioned that there is contact between Hamas’ leadership abroad and in Gaza.

  • Mousa Abu Marzouk, on his second diplomatic mission to Russia since the start of the war, said in an interview to Pravda.Ru that Hamas hopes that Russia will increase its involvement in international politics and “stand up” to the United States regarding issues in the Middle East. Abu Marzouk noted in the interview that Russia maintains relations with various Palestinian factions, and that Hamas “trusts” Russia, “just as Israel trusts the United States.” “We want Russia to play a role [in the conflict with Israel] at this point,” he added.

Operational

  • This week there was a major development in the Khan Younis offensive – IDF fighter jets shot dozens of targets including weapons silos, observation posts, and terrorists gathering locations. Over 200 tunnel openings were found and destroyed, and 10 rocket launchers were destroyed. There are a total of seven brigades operating in the Khan Younis area which could help Israel negotiate a hostage deal from a position of strength as the last major Hamas stronghold is poised to fall.

  • Khan Younis is completely surrounded with only its western part remaining unconquered. It appears to be just a matter of days before Khan Younis, the last major Hamas command center, falls which would be a defining moment of the war. On Saturday, the IDF announced that it is starting a joint attack with 4 brigades into the refugee camp in Khan Younis.

  • The IDF has surrounded the western part of Khan Younis and asked civilians in the area to evacuate to the South or to the humanitarian zone in the West. Many are hiding with Hamas terrorists in Nasser Hospital, dubbed the “Khan Younis’ Al Shifa”. This area is one of the most crowded ones in Gaza, meaning that any operational activity in the area without the evacuation of civilians would increase dramatically the number of casualties. There are over 300 patients and 5000 displaced civilians who refuse to evacuate – similar to what happened in Al Shifa. This creates a dangerous situation for the IDF that must fight terrorists who are using civilians as human shields, some of whom cooperate with the terrorists. The terrorists dress in civilian clothes come close to IDF troops in order to collect intelligence and use the IDF adherence to international law to gain a tactical advantage putting the soldiers in vulnerable situations.

  • Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited Yahalom soldiers on Thursday and has said that the IDF managed to create the situation where hundreds of terrorists are leaving their tunnels in Khan Younis because the tunnel infrastructure is failing and collapsing on the terrorists.

  • Hamas released a video of three hostages, two soldiers and one civilian as part of its psychological warfare campaign against the Israeli public ahead of a potential hostage deal.

  • After a number of protestors in Israel blocked the road for humanitarian aid trucks to enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Gallant and asked him to make sure that aid would flow to Gaza uninterrupted.

  • On Monday, there largest number of IDF soldiers were killed on a single day since the beginning of the war- 24. This happened when in an operational activity near the border close to Kissufim, where soldiers were flattening the area to create a perimeter inside Gaza near the border. The soldiers had installed explosive devices inside a building when a Hamas terrorist shot an RPG rocket towards the building causing the explosives to detonate which collapsed the building with of the soldiers inside.

  • The WSJ reports that Israel is creating a kilometer wide perimeter inside Gaza which includes flattening every building, tunnel opening, observation post and other terrorist infrastructure. This means that every terrorist that would come close to the border fence would be detected from very far away. Secretary Blinken asserted that he told Israel to protect Gaza’ territorial integrity, pushing back against Israel’s security perimeter plans.

  • In central Gaza, a tunnel was found close to the border which connected the north and central Gaza and allowed the transport of weapons from different Hamas command centers. The tunnel was destroyed.

  • The Hamas terrorists in Northern Gaza, an area operationally controlled by Israel, continued their efforts to reassemble their broken battalions and continued their attacks against IDF troops in Jabalia, Zaitun and Juhor ad-Dik using anti-tank missiles and IEDs. In one incident the Nahal Brigade which operated in Beit Lahia and encountered resistance received back-up from the Israeli Navy that provided more firepower.

  • Terrorists claim to have shot at IDF tanks using shells and anti-tank missiles from Al Marazi and Al Bureij. If the reports are true, it demonstrates that these are areas are yet to be cleared of terror infrastructure.

  • The IDF discovered a tunnel under a residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, with a length of 1.5 KM which was connected to underground factories for weapons including rockets. IDF troops fought above the ground and then conquered the tunnel and destroyed it after the terrorists used explosives to block the entrance of the tunnel.

  • There are reports of Hamas bandits stealing aid and selling it to the largest bidders.

  • In an unprecedented event, a group of Palestinians protested against the war in Deir El Balah, calling on Hamas to release the Israeli hostages so that they can return to their homes.

Thomas White, UNRWA director in the Gaza Strip, reported that two Israeli tanks shelled a building sheltering 800 Palestinians in Khan Yunis, leaving nine dead and 75 wounded. The PA condemned Israel and the US expressed concerned and stressed the need to protect residents and UNRWA employees.


Lebanon

Operational

  • Hezbollah sent a drone headed towards an Iron Dome battery which was intercepted.

  • The Israeli Air Force struck a Hezbollah military runway 15 km from the Israel-Lebanon border shortly after Hezbollah conducted a drone attack into Israel.

  • Nabil Qaouk, a Hezbollah official, part of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, has said that harm to civilians is a red line for Hezbollah and would react forcefully to Israeli incursions.

Diplomatic

  • Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, met with Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in New York and discussed the urgent need to end the war in the north. The Iranian foreign minister has said Iran is determined to end the fighting in the north. Abdallah Bou Habib also met with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to discuss the same issues.

Judea and Samaria

  • Since the beginning of the war, the IDF has detained 2,700 terror operatives, 1,300 of whom are affiliated with Hamas.

  • Hamas is continuing its efforts to instigate a wider conflict in the region with calls to conduct terror attacks against Israeli settlements.

  • Hamas propogandists are copying themes from Israeli public diplomacy efforts to release the hostages in Gaza. It portrays female terrorists in Israeli prisons as innocent victims who are treated harshly and must be released as soon as possible.

Incitement to kill civilians on Hamas channels, Credit: @mutared4

Credit: @mutared4

Hamas propaganda, “Why are you quiet? Our (female) prisoners are in danger.” Credit: daffamedia

  • Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas met in Ramallah with UK Foreign Minister, David Cameron, to discuss the need to stop “Israeli aggression,” increasing of humanitarian assistance and the prevention of violence in Judea and Samaria. Abbas said that unlike the Israeli plan, there is no military solution to Gaza, and it could not be disconnected from a Palestinian State. Cameron presented the UK’s plan for the delivery of humanitarian assistance until a ceasefire is reached which would lead to a long-term solution for the “Palestinian State.”

  • Nabil Abu Radina, Abbas’ spokesperson has said that the PA supports any solution which would bring a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance to Gaza. After the ceasefire, they are willing to discuss all issues. He said that they have no faith in Israel, the US and the West and that Palestinian unity is necessary. He continued to add that the Palestinians would not accept any future plan for Palestinians coming from an external source.

 

Iraq and Syria

  • The Iraqi Foreign Minister said that conversations between the Iraqi government and the American government started regarding the gradual removal of American forces from Iraq. The removal of forces would be done in steps to prevent the growth of IS and Al Qaeda forces in the country.

  • An Iranian convoy carrying weapons headed to Lebanon was attacked at the Abu Kemal crossing between Iraq and Syria.

  • The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also claimed (with no evidence) that it conducted a drone attack on January 25 targeting the Israeli port of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv.

  • Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq continued attacking American bases in northeastern Syria, Erbil International Airport in Erbil Province, Iraq, and Ain al Asad airbase in Anbar Province, Iraq. American forces retaliated prompting Iraqi politicians to criticize e their presence.

  • The Islamic Resistance in Iraq released a statement rejecting the US and Iraqi decision to begin negotiations over the status of US-led coalition forces in Iraq and vowed to continue attacking US forces.

Yemen

  • The US and the UK placed sanctions on several Houthi officials. The officials include:

  • Houthi “Defense Minister” Mohamed al Atifi

  • Houthi “Maritime Forces Commander” Muhammad Fadl Abd al Nabi

  • Houthi “Coastal Defense Forces Chief” and “Naval College Director” Muhammad Ali al Qadiri

  • Houthi “Procurement Director” Mohammad Ahmad al Talibi

  • US and UK-led forced continued their campaign of aerial bombardment against the Houthis and destroyed missile control systems, anti-aircraft batteries, missile batteries and weapon silos. The British Air Force also attacked an airport near Sanaa.

  • An American official said that they received intelligence that the Houthis are planning to expand their operations and are attempting to procure more weapons from Iran.

  • The US has said they attacked over 8 Houthi targets in the last wave of attacks with assistance from Australia, Canada, Holland, and Bahrain. According to the Pentagon, from January 11th, 25 missile launchers and 20 missiles were destroyed along with UAVs and missile detection radars.

  • The Houthis have taken responsibility for the attack against British oil tanker MARLIN LUANDA which caught on fire from a ballistic missile hit.

  • China called for the cessation of hostilities as it is harmed economically by the tensions in the Red Sea.

  • US attacked Houthi batteries after the Houthis shot three rockets at an American ship. Two were intercepted and one landed in the water.

  • US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Bangkok with the Chinese Foreign Minister to discuss the Houthis attacks in the Red Sea. The US hopes that China will use its sway over Teheran and will rein in the Houthi aggression. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “China calls for a stop of causing disturbances to civilian ships, and urges relevant parties to avoid adding fuel to the fire in the Red Sea and jointly safeguard the safety of the Red Sea shipping route in accordance with international law.”

  • US media outlet Semafor reported on January 15 that the IRGC Quds Force had overseen the transfer to Yemen of the drones and missiles that the Houthis have used in their attacks targeting maritime shipping in the Red Sea. IRGC have forces on the ground training the Houthis and providing tactical intelligence for their attacks.

  • UK media outlet Daily Telegraph reported on January 10 that the IRGC trained a group of 200 Houthis in Iran prior to the Houthi attacks.

  • The Houthis conducted multiple attacks on a US Navy warship and two commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden. CENTCOM reported that the Houthis fired one anti-ship ballistic missile targeting the USS Carney. Two missiles exploded within a few hundred meters of the Panama-flagged commercial tanker Achilles around the same time as the attack on the USS Carney.

  • China pressed Iran to rein in the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea as their impact on global trade is impacting the Chinese economy.

Iran

  • The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States secretly warned Iran that the Islamic State was preparing to conduct the January 3 terrorist attack in Kerman. Iran denied the report.

  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a joint statement on the Israel-Hamas war and Iranian-Turkish relations after Raisi’s visit to Ankara on January 25th. The joint statement condemned Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. The statement noted the need for “decisive measures” to stop Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. Raisi and Erdogan expressed their desire for unspecified “competent courts”to try Israeli military and political leaders.

  • Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian threatened in a press conference on January 25 that any country normalizing ties with Israel will pay a “heavy price”.

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