1. Birth and Rebirth for Terrorism and Disengagement Victims
by Ezra HaLevi
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David Hatuel, whose wife and four daughters were murdered in a 2004 terrorist attack, welcomed a daughter to the world on Thursday. The baby girl and her mother Limor are in good health.
Hatuel’s first wife Tali and their four daughters were murdered while driving near their home in Gush Katif in an attack that shook the nation. The girls ranged in age from two to eleven years old.
Tali Hatuel was eight months pregnant with the Hatuel’s first son at the time of the attack. She and her daughters were shot at point-blank range by Islamic Jihad terrorists, who launched their attack from abandoned buildings near the Kissufim Road, which the Israeli Supreme Court had forbidden the army to remove.
After mourning his family, David Hatuel explained that he had two options: to fall and let the tragedy destroy him, or to choose life. He was subsequently evicted from his home, still filled with memories of his family, as part of the Disengagement.
His friends described the new Hatuel family as “tired but exuberant” on Thursday afternoon.
Netzarim Finds New Home
Residents of the community of Netzarim, expelled from their homes in central Gaza and resettled in the Samaria city of Ariel, have issued an open invitation to the public to join them in dedicating a new synagogue, outreach center and Torah scroll on Monday, March 19th.
The building will be called Netzer Ariel. One of the outreach goals of the center will be to counter heightened missionary activity in the city, which is populated by many students and immigrants. Activists say the town has 14 active church groups and just four synagogues. “Residents made a decision to form the community of Netzer Ariel to serve as a beacon of Torah and tradition in order to strengthen Jewish life and Jewish values for the residents and large student population of Ariel,” a statement said.
The dedication will begin at 4 PM at 4 Ramat HaGolan Street (signs will be posted).
2. Supreme Court: Punish Anti-Expulsion Protesters to Deter Others
by Ezra HaLevi
Israel’s Supreme Court convicted two minors Thursday who took part in anti-expulsion protests prior to the implementation of the Disengagement Plan and the destruction of Jewish towns in Gaza and northern Samaria. Comment on This Story
The two had taken part in the blocking of the Geha Highway (Highway 4) on August 16th, 2005 – on the eve of the forced eviction and after Gaza had already been declared closed to Jews. The two used mattresses to block traffic, which they set on fire.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled earlier that the two were guilty, but not deserving of punishment beyond court-imposed classes on democracy. The State Prosecution appealed the decision, seeking much harsher punishment. The state argued that a large demographic views road blockings as a legitimate form of protest and must be corrected.
The Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision Thursday, convicting the two teens of endangerment of life on a traffic thoroughfare and instructing the lower court to hand down a harsher sentence.
Supreme Court Justice Amnon Rubinstein wrote in his verdict: “We are aware of the basic norms of the defendants and their outstanding contribution on behalf of the public, as well as their expressions of remorse and introspection. But the previous verdict of acquittal was a moderate punishment. Therefore, we decided that in order to fulfill the intent of the lawmaker and in order to deter the public, we are convicting them of this crime…In this regard, the driving ideology heightens the necessity of deterring the public [from engaging in civil disobedience], and there is no need to be verbose in this regard.”
Rubinstein went on to criticize the “use of minors” in the struggle against the Disengagement and expressed his hope that the conviction would be a deterrent to others who may seek to wage such a struggle again in the future. “It is not a simple decision in that before us we have people who we believe and hope will perform beneficial service in the IDF and become good citizens, while before us we also have the dictate of the lawmaker – and especially when dealing with minors, with an emphasis on the individual. But in this case, we tend to lean toward conviction specifically because these dangerous illegal action were part of a political and ideological struggle – and this must be uprooted. Thus it is upon the Supreme Court to contribute to that end.”
Rubinstein said the verdict was aimed most of all at the “leaders” of the anti-expulsion camp and should not prevent the young people from serving in elite IDF units.
The Deputy Head of the Israel Bar Association, Attorney Yariv Levine spoke with Arutz-7 about the ramifications of the convictions. “We are speaking about a very serious verdict that once again positions the Supreme Court on the fringes of Israeli society, further intensifying the public’s sweeping lack of faith in the justice system.”
Levine added that it is “demonstrated again and again that when it comes to the human rights of supporters of the settlement project, the Supreme Court abstains from fulfilling its duties.”
3. North American Mass Aliyah Goes Monthly
by Ezra HaLevi
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Nefesh b'Nefesh (NbN
), the Aliyah (immigration to Israel) assistance organization known for its chartered flights and magnificent ceremonies for North American immigrants, has now instituted monthly Aliyah flights.
Forty-two new immigrants arrived on the first such flight Tuesday. The organization, faced with a constantly growing numbers of olim (new immigrants), decided to offer monthly spaces in groups aboard regular commercial flights for the convenience of the olim, rather than compelling the new arrivals to wait for one of the half-dozen charter flights.
El Al flight crew: big fans of Aliyah
Israel National Radio’s Yishai and Malkah Fleisher were aboard the flight, interviewing new olim and documenting Aliyah history.
Lorelai Kude, one of the immigrants, told the Fleishers Arutz-7 had played a role in her choosing to make the move. “Listening to Israel National Radio gave me the strength to make Aliyah and helped me through the hard times,” she said.
Lorelai Kude shared an emotional farewell with a friend she met thirty years ago on a trip to Israel
A young girl, assigned a 'mitzva project' by her school, built an Aliyah plane
Another oleh, Mike Wein said it was a bad experience on a United Jewish Communities mission that led him to put himself where his money had been. “I started thinking about Aliyah in 1993 after leading a UJC mission from Memphis, Tennessee,” Wein told Fleisher, standing beside his dog Moses who is moving to Tel Aviv with him. “Nefesh b’Nefesh has made Aliyah into something easy.”
Mike Wein and his dog, Moses, prepare to cross the ocean and into Israel
Wein plans on taking intensive Hebrew classes. “Moses knows more Hebrew than me at this point,” he said.
Click here for Israel National Radio’s interview with Wein.
Nathan and Michelle Mintz were also on the flight with their two children, Ayelet (5) and Ilana (3). “After Yeshiva University (YU), I spent three years in law school,” Nathan recalls. “I was living in the United States for about three years after law school and Aliyah is something we wanted to do for a very long time. Once the opportunity came, my wife and I decided to go for it.”
Nathan and Michelle Mintz made Aliyah with Ayelet (5) and Ilana (3 - pictured below)
“What is the opportunity?” Fleisher asked.
“I got a job in Tel Aviv with an accounting firm looking for American tax lawyers,” Mintz answered. “It’s a really hot field right now.”
Everything we studied...pointed to this point in my life
Mintz says American companies are investing in Israel and have been opening up branches in Israel, and there has been a rise in Israeli companies seeking to do business in America. All seek lawyers familiar with the American tax system.
Proving his Israeli absorption had begun, Mintz offered inside information for other prospective immigrants. “The accounting firm that I’m working for said they need four or five more American tax lawyers right now. So any American tax lawyer who wants to make Aliyah, there’s uh – it’s a big business right now.”
Fleisher reminded Mintz that they had been in a Philosophy class together at Yeshiva University. “Everything we studied in YU, I mean everything, pointed to this point in my life,” Mintz said.
Click here to listen to the Israel National Radio interview with Mintz
The Mintzs will settle in Hashmonaim, a town in Samaria just across the Green Line from Modi’in, the major city built halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in recent years.
David Feinberg making Aliyah with his wife Hadassa and two children, Gershon (pictured) and Efraim
Until Wednesday, most Nefesh b’Nefesh groups of olim have been greeted by dignitaries, with a festive ceremony taking place in a large hangar near Terminal 1. Though no such ceremony greeted the olim, Fleisher reported one advantage to the monthly flights. “Aside from the convenience, when the pilot announced that there were olim on the plane, the other 150 passengers - returning Israelis, American visitors, both Jews and non-Jews, as well as veteran olim, all clapped and wished the new olim well. It was a source of inspiration for everybody aboard.”
The plane approaches Israel, blessed rain greets the new immigrants
Illustrating the experience, two veteran Israeli men who had come as delegates to the annual conference the AIPAC lobby group in Washington DC addressed the passengers out loud, welcoming them home in their new language. “Bruchim habaim v’kol hakavod lachem (Welcome and kudos),” they said.
"Bruchim HaBaim l'kol haOlim!" (Welcome to all the new immigrants!" say the two AIPAC delegates
The two told Fleisher they had no idea they would be sharing a plane with the group, but were emotionally touched by the scene, as they had just been engaged in arguments with American Jews at the lobbyist conference. “We came to the conference and told them, ‘What are you doing here? We don’t need your money - just your Aliyah,’” one said.
The new immigrants benefited from all of NbN’s technological efforts to make the process of immigration as efficient as possible. They filled out all the necessary paperwork on tablet laptops to receive their first identity papers. Upon arrival at the airport, the new immigrants were met by officials from the Ministries of Absorption and Interior, along with a team of NbN Aliyah professionals.
Tablet PCs used to enable the new immigrants to get all the Aliyah paperwork done by the time they land in Israel
The olim's luggage is tagged with NbN stickers
The new olim arrive at Ben Gurion Airport's Terminal 3
Nefesh b'Nefesh co-founder Rabbi Yehoshua Fass greets the new olim at Ben Gurion Airport
Jeffrey Allen Benedix, 22, made Aliyah from Sunrise, Florida to Jerusalem – Brigitta Kogut, 27, moved from Ontario, Canada to Tel-Aviv
The Mintzs at passport control
“This is the greatest day of my life,” Mintz said, his daughter Ilana wearing a pin distributed by the Neo-Zionist Kumah movement, reading got home? "This is the mitzvah that I want to define me.”
Ilana Mintz wears Kumah's 'Got Home' Aliyah pin
(Photos: Yishai and Malkah Fleisher)
4. Olmert Comes Out Swinging in Kadima Speech
by Hana Levi Julian
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came out swinging in a scathing speech attacking the media and investigators Thursday night at a meeting of Kadima party leaders. the Kadima party convention.
In his address, Olmert addressed polls showing that his popularity rating is at an all-time low, saying he is aware of the dismal numbers. The Prime Minister deflected the blame for his poor ratings on to the media and his political foes for attacking him with “a shower of venom.” He added that he could be popular if he were willing to compromise on his principles, but he prefers to do the right thing.
“I’m not a popular prime minister. The polls show this and the media makes sure to remind the public that I’m unpopular,” he said. “Even politicians in my own party make sure to bring this up.”
Olmert told Kadima officials that he did not order a more aggressive war against Hizbullah last summer because it could have caused many more deaths of Israeli soldiers. More than 115 troops died in the five-week war while millions of northern residents lived for five weeks in bomb shelters under the threat of missile attacks or fled their homes altogether.
He also said that he directed the IDF to conduct a ground offensive in the last days of the war in order to ensure what he termed diplomatic gains. Thirty-three soldiers died in the offensive.
Olmert also took responsibility for the struggle against Iran’s rapidly developing nuclear capabilities, Israel’s public relations problems in the international arena and the need to secure the safe return of the three IDF soldiers who were abducted by terrorists last summer.
Soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev remain in enemy hands despite Olmert’s promise not to agree to a ceasefire with Lebanon until all three were brought home safely.
Although the Hamas terrorists who kidnapped Shalit continue to flirt with Israeli and Arab negotiators about the conditions for his release, his whereabouts and condition are still unknown, other than a letter supposedly written by the soldier months ago.
Attempts to negotiate with the Hizbullah guerrillas who snatched Goldwasser and Regev in an attack that ignited the second Lebanon War in July have been even less fruitful.
International Red Cross officials who are tasked with determining the condition and welfare of international captives have not been allowed by either terrorist organization to visit or contact the hostages in any way. There has been no sign of life from Goldwasser and Regev since they were kidnapped. However, Israel has allowed Red Cross officials to visit three Hizbullah terrorists who were captured by the IDF.
The struggle against Iran’s rapidly progressing nuclear military capability, both on the international scene and on less public levels, was another issue Olmert said he was working on. He also took responsibility for improving Israel’s image in the international community.
Olmert attacked the investigations into his alleged criminal behavior, saying the charges against him were invented by publicity hounds and have no truth behind them.
He finished his speech by stressing his intention to stay in power. The voters picked him to lead the country for four years, Olmert said, and to step down earlier would be to betray their trust.
Ezra HaLevi contributed to this report.
5. Critics: Olmert Unpopular Because He is a Failure
by Hana Levi Julian
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Knesset Members pounced on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech to Kadima leaders Thursday night, saying his statements demonstrated his failure as a leader.
The Prime Minister dismissed polls showing his popularity at a record low, saying he is leading the country rather than trying to be popular. He also slammed investigators and journalists, blaming them for his poor ratings.
His statements denouncing attacks by the media and opposition aroused even more criticism by Knesset members who chided him for pushing the “victim” button in his speech.
Kadima with the notable exception of Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tzipi Livni expressed support for the beleaguered Prime Minister, who is facing two investigations on bribery and corruption charges, in addition to a personal critique in the soon-to-be-published interim Winograd Report. The Winograd Commission was appointed by Olmert himself to probe the conduct of government officials during last summer’s war against Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.
Party officials were not as positive about Livni’s remarks after the speech, however.
Livni, a fellow Kadima member who is widely considered the top candidate to replace Prime Minister Olmert if the government fails, was the lone voice in the crowd who evaded expressing outright support for him. She confined her remarks to calling on party members to unite behind the Prime Minister.
Kadima officials close to Olmert criticized her for putting politics above the party’s welfare. “All of the party’s top members stood behind the prime minister and managed to rise above their own political concerns – except for Livni,” said an Olmert aide. “The political situation isn’t easy for anyone, but there were those who knew to do the right thing and support the Prime Minister, and those who didn’t.”
Members of other political parties were quick to add fuel to the fire.
Likud MK Yisrael Katz vowed to introduce a bill to dissolve the Knesset because the speech "proved that Olmert has lost control...and there is no choice other than to call new elections."
National Union MK Uri Ariel called for the Prime Minister to resign.
From the opposite side of the political spectrum, Meretz Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan said, "The Prime Minister sounded pathetic to a certain degree." He advised Olmert to “examine himself instead of saying that everyone else is wrong."
Likud Knesset Member Limor Livnat scored Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for making an "excellent" speech that "does not forgive the tragedies of the past several months and collapse of government policy...and security."
Speaking on Voice of Israel government radio, the former Education Minister ridiculed the Prime Minister's statement, "I know I am not popular," and said bluntly that Olmert is not popular "because he is a failure."
Livnat added that the Prime Minister could raise his ratings in the polls if would live up to his promises to pay regional council workers.
She also recommended that Olmert order two government committees to make a decision on naming last summer's war against the Hizbullah terrorist organization in Lebanon. Both have been advised by the government not to refer to the 33-day conflict as a war. More than 115 soldiers lost their lives, hundreds were wounded and two hostages were taken in the fierce battles with Hizbullah guerrillas.
Parents of soldiers who fell in the war have given up on the committees and have decided themselves to re-write the gravestones of their sons to note they died in the war in Lebanon.
6. In Accordance With PA Platform, Fatah Fires Rockets at Israel
by Ezra HaLevi
The same day that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group signed onto a joint platform with Hamas, Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades group fired five Kassam rockets toward Israeli towns in the western Negev. Comment on This Story
The Al Aksa Brigades Fatah terror group said the five rockets it launched Thursday were aimed at Ashkelon, Sderot and the resettled community of Elei Sinai, whose residents were expelled by the government from northern Gaza almost two years ago.
The IDF said it had no knowledge of the attacks.
Egyptian police captured a would-be suicide bomber in the Sinai Peninsula. The would-be bomber, Gaza resident Hamid Al-Nadur, had a suicide belt with him and admitted that he planned to attack Israelis. It is not yet known whether Al-Nadur planned to attack Israelis in Sinai or to infiltrate Israel and attack there.
Along with Al-Nadur, police arrested an Egyptian man suspected of assisting him. Nine Egyptian residents of Rafiah suspected of membership in an armed terrorist cell were arrested as well.
Both Attacks Legal According to PA Platform
The move does not violate the policy statement, which seems to commit Fatah to respecting the right to use terrorism against Israel rather than the commitment by Hamas to eschew terror hoped for by the so-called Quartet of nations. "Our people have the right to defend themselves before any Israeli aggression," the platform reads.
The platform also says that such attacks will be launched until the conditions of surrender outlined here are met:
* “The right of return of Palestinian refugees"
* “Ending all forms of occupation in the Palestinian territories, including removing the racist wall, settlements and stopping the Judaization of Jerusalem."
* Concerning the Gaza ceasefire, which has been broken more than 150 times by Arab terrorists since it was announced in late November: It will be maintained "in return for Israel's cessation of its occupation measures...such as assassinations, arrests, incursions, house demolition, clearing of lands, excavation in Jerusalem [and] lifting of checkpoints and reopening of crossing points, the ending of travel restrictions and the release of prisoners".
Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman called the new political platform of the Palestinian Authority a declaration of war Thursday night.
Lieberman said that the goal of the new PA leadership is clearly the destruction of Israel and that Israel is now obliged to cut off ties with PA chief and Fatah chairman Mahmoud Abbas. “The PA is now clearly run by Hamas,” he said, “and Abbas is trying to get international approval for Hamas terrorism.” Lieberman said that Israel must form a national emergency government of all Zionist parties and that he would advance the move at the next Knesset session.
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union /NRP) said that the platform shows a united Arab decision to continue with terrorism until Israel is destroyed.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said the new joint control of the PA is a ploy to obtain international acceptance and blamed the government for failing to maintain an international boycott of the PA.
Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin hailed the joint platform as an opportunity for negotiations with the PA.
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said the government is obligated to renew negotiations in order to prove that Israel truly wants peace.
France agrees with Meretz and intends to support the new PA government, according to incoming PA Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, who says French Foreign Minister Phillipe Douste-Blazy invited him to a Paris meeting to begin "a new page in the relations between the Hamas government and the international community."
The United States is withholding judgment on the new Hamas-Fatah unity government “until its policies become clearer,” according to State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack. He said the US would continue to work with Abbas, regardless of the decision.
White House spokesman Tony Snow reiterated that the Bush administration will only recognize the new PA government if it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts existing agreements.
Schools Nationwide Prepare For Missile Attacks
Schools nationwide held drills on Thursday to practice for an enemy attack. Students practiced running into bomb shelters and remaining calm. The exercise gave teachers a chance to check preparedness, both of the students and of the bomb shelters.
While school would be cancelled in case of a nationwide attack, the exercise prepared students and teachers for the time between the beginning of an attack and the cancellation of classes. During the war with Hizbullah last summer, students in many schools and universities were caught off guard by rocket fire, and did not know where to find shelter.
Two rock attacks took place in the Shomron region on Thursday night. In the first attack, Arabs threw stones at Israelis who were driving north of Ramallah. The second attack took place east of Kalkilya.
No injuries were reported in either attack. Two cars were damaged.
Arab terrorists opened fire on a group of soldiers in Shechem on Thursday night. No soldiers were injured in the attack.
A PA Arab man was killed after when a smuggling tunnel between Rafah and Egypt collapsed, according to PA reports. Two men were injured in the collapse.
IDF soldiers arrested nine wanted terrorists from the Hamas and PFLP terror groups Thursday night. Four were caught in a village northwest of Ramallah and one was nabbed southwest of Bethlehem. Four others were arrested west of Hevron.
The arrests, according to the new PA platform, are a violation of the cease-fire and are grounds for a PA counter-attack.
7. Strategic Affairs Minister Lieberman Visits Israeli-Arab Village
by Ezra HaLevi
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, visited an Israeli-Arab village in the Galilee Thursday. Comment on This Story
Lieberman’s party calls for stripping Israeli citizenship from Israeli-Arabs who refuse to pledge loyalty to the State of Israel and for the repatriation of entire Arab villages in Wadi Ara to the Palestinian Authority.
Lieberman and members of his party visited the Christian Arab village to dispel the claim by Israel’s left that he is a racist. In their addresses to Arab villagers they expressed their appreciation and support for all loyal Israeli citizens, “no matter what their ethnic or religious background.”
"Every citizen loyal to his state should feel that the State of Israel is his home and that he is an integral part of society," Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday evening during a visit to the Arab Christian village of Mailia in the Western Galilee. "As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between Rabbi Hirsch of Neturei Karta [who embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] and Sheik Ra'ed Salah [head of the Israeli-Arab Islamic Movement, who has called for an Israeli-Arab Intifada]. They are both Israel haters and their fate is equal."
Residents of the village reportedly welcomed the delegation. The Tanus family, who invited Lieberman, told Yediot Acharonot that they invited him to promote tourism and infrastructure in their village. "The minister is known as a man who works. He is a bulldozer, and this has been proven in the past. We hope it will be proven in the future as well. I would like this visit to serve the Christian sector, which I am part of," Assad Tanus told Yediot.
Lieberman brought with him Yisrael Beiteinu’s Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
Lieberman said he saw no reason that loyal Israeli-Arabs wouldn’t vote for his party. Voting for the Arab parties, he said, “can represent the interest of the Syrian or Palestinian citizen,” but the existing Arab parties do not demonstrate loyalty to the State of Israel.
8. Heavy Snows, Fatal Accident
by Ezra HaLevi
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Snow storms swept across Israel Thursday, sprinkling Jerusalem and the western Negev and blanketing Gush Etzion, the Golan Heights and Hevron with snow and hail.
The snow closed roads around the capital Thursday morning and led to a fatal car accident near Hevron in which Rabbi Avi Cohen-Or, 42, and his wife, Simcha, 38, were killed.
The accident took place at the Beit Anoun junction. The family's van skid on ice and collided with a bus on the slippery highway, killing the couple and injuring their daughter Gitit (bat Simcha) critically.
Ambulances rushing to the scene came under attack by local Palestinian Authority Arabs, who hurled rocks and bricks at the rescue vehicles, as well as at those motorists stuck in the ensuing traffic. The Cohen-Ors, parents of eight, were pronounced dead on the scene. Gitit was airlifted to the hospital.
Rabbi Cohen-Or was the founder and dean of the Netiv-Dror Yeshiva. The Cohen Ors' funeral began at 6 PM with eulogies in the religious seminary in the community of Telem and the funeral procession leaving towards the Yarkon cemetery.
Ten inches of snow fell in the Mount Hermon region of the Golan Heights Wednesday night, resulting in the closing of the ski slopes at the resort Thursday. Schools in the Golan Heights were closed Thursday.
In Gush Etzion, the snowfall began in the early morning, as many were already on their way to work in Jerusalem or elsewhere. A large number of residents found themselves stuck on the roads or having to find accommodations in the capital overnight. Buses and schools ran on schedule in Jerusalem.
Snow accumulated in areas above 3,000 feet, melting quickly at lower altitudes. The Negev town of Arad experienced heavy hail during the day.
Lake Kinneret has risen almost an inch, bringing the water level within 2.58 meters of its desired level.
9. Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei (Hachodesh)
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A7 Radio's "Torah Tidbits Audio" with Phil Chernofsky
And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: 'These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death.Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.'
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