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In response to damning housing report, Netanyahu demands Israelis think about Iran

What do you do when facing backlash from all sides of the political spectrum? Blame it on the Ayatollah.

A much-anticipated housing report published Wednesday evening by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira blamed the Netanyahu government for failing to properly deal with the rising costs of housing in Israel. According to Shapira, poor government planning and disregard for the middle class played key roles in creating the current severe housing crisis in Israel, which could lead to the disappearance of the middle class and eventually have a devastating impact on the entire economy, he says. Netanyahu’s failure, says the report, mainly stems from the lack of any long-term strategy to ameliorate the housing situation in the country.

Immediately after the report was published, Netanyahu hit Twitter to strike back at critics of his policies. Only instead of trying to explain or defend his abysmal record on housing, the prime minister eschewed any real discussion, instead opting for — once again — warning about the threat of a nuclear Iran.

But Netanyahu’s pithy response didn’t go unanswered, with both journalists and public figures lambasting the prime minister for what seems like pure contempt for any form of criticism. Manuel Trajtenberg, who was appointed by Netanyahu in 2011 to head a committee that would recommend measures to overcome the 2011 social justice protests, and who is number 11 on the Zionist Camp list for the upcoming elections, responded to the prime minister on Twitter:

The Zionist Camp’s Stav Shaffir also responded to Netanyahu’s tweet, saying:

Even right-wing journalists were surprised by Bibi’s attempt to divert attention. Elad Raveh, a literary critic for the right-wing Makor Rishon daily, responded:

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Netanyahu is losing it

From his growing conflict with the White House to frantic attacks on the media, there’s something off with Israel’s prime minister.

Election season is a time when politicians say things they generally don’t mean, make promises they generally won’t keep and kiss babies they generally wouldn’t otherwise kiss. But if you have been tuned into the Israeli election cycle, you’ll notice that one politician in particular has shunned the campaign beat typical of most would-be Israeli leaders.

In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you’d have noticed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is officially losing it. The downward spiral began with accepting an invitation by Speaker of the House John Boehner to speak to both chambers of Congress in order to derail American-led nuclear talks with Iran – a move that has been roundly condemned by U.S. and Israeli leaders alike. President Obama has decided not to meet with Netanyahu on his trip to Washington, and Vice President Biden has declared that he will boycott the speech.

Netanyahu, who seems intent on driving a stake through the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran come hell or high water, has even managed to alienate those Americans who dedicate their careers to defending Israeli policies. And despite criticism from a diverse chorus of prominent voices on both the Left and the Right, Netanyahu has doubled down and refuses to change course.

 

The casual follower of Israeli politics might think that the chutzpah stops there. After all, they may say to themselves, Iran is a sworn enemy of Israel, and the leader of the only Jewish state in the world has every right to try and convince its greatest ally to change course vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic. But something else is happening: the past few days have revealed that when it comes to domestic affairs, Netanyahu is becoming unhinged.

The subject of numerous attacks and almost-scandals in recent weeks, Netanyahu has started hitting back at his political opponents — or rather, swinging wildly at the messenger and becoming indignant that people oppose him. The first and primary target of the prime minister’s rage is Noni Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Mozes, or so the...

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Attorney General: MK Zoabi likely to stand trial for incitement

The decision is just one of several that have targeted the Arab Knesset member over the past year. 

Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced Tuesday that he has decided to indict MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) for incitement to violence and disgracing a public official. Weinstein summoned Zoabi to a pre-indictment hearing, upon the recommendation of several legal experts, where she will be able to plead her case.

The indictment relates to a hearing at a Nazareth courthouse in July of this year, where Zoabi allegedly insulted policemen guarding the building. According to the state prosecutor’s office, Zoabi called two Arab police officers “traitors,” threatened them and told a protesting crowd to spit in their faces.

According to Weinstein, “MK Zoabi’s statements indicated that she called for violence against the police officers that were at the scene, as well as other police officers of Arab descent who also work against Arab suspects. She encouraged similar acts of violence, which according to her statements, the way she said them, and the circumstances, there was a real possibility of her words leading to acts of violence against Arab police officers, particularly the ones at the scene, to which her words were directed.”

Zoabi’s attorney, Hassan Jabareen, responded to Weinstein’s announcement, saying “the state prosecutor’s office does not usually put elected officials on trial for momentary and spontaneous statements made during the heat of public political action, and thus if an indictment is issued, the prosecutor’s office will have to explain its discrimination against MK Zoabi to the court, since in dozens of similar and even more extreme cases, no indictments were issued, nor were any investigations opened.”

Right-wing MKs praised the decision, with Avigdor Liberman stating that Zoabi should be tried for “consistently undermining the State of Israel.” Miri Regev called to remove Zoabi’s diplomatic immunity and “kick her out of the Knesset.”

The announcement comes just one month after the High Court of Justice rejected Zoabi’s appeal to overturn her six-month suspension from parliamentary discussions for a political opinion she expressed on the radio in June, in the wake of the kidnapping of the three Yeshiva students in the West Bank.

In their decision, the justices wrote that while recognizing that her suspension is in fact extreme compared with past punishments, they are nonetheless ruling to uphold it ”in light of the petitioner’s harsh words and the timing in which she said them,” referring to the...

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Settlers attack U.S. convoy near West Bank outpost

Settlers from the West Bank outpost of Adei Ad threw rocks at a U.S. Consulate convoy carrying American diplomats on Friday afternoon. The convoy was hit upon arriving at a nearby Palestinian village to examine olive groves that were uprooted a day prior.

According to Ynet, American security personnel drew their M16 rifles as settlers approached the convoy. The State Department later denied that guns were drawn. No one was injured in the confrontation.

The diplomats arrived in the area after Palestinians who live in village of Turmus Aya and have U.S. citizenship asked them to look at the damage caused to their trees. The convoy included workers from Jerusalem, although the consul was not present. Settlers claimed that the diplomats entered the area without prior permission, and that their presence allowed Palestinians to enter the outpost.

The U.S. Consulate has yet to officially respond to the event, however American sources say that the president is currently looking into the incident. Israeli police, however, stated that the consulate members arrived without prior coordination.

Turmus Aya recently made headlines in after Palestinian Authority Minister Ziad Abu Ein collapsed there in the wake of an attack by an Israeli soldier. Abu Ein died shortly thereafter in a Ramallah hospital.

Related:
WATCH: Soldiers protect settlers attacking West Bank village
Palestinian minister dies after reportedly struck by Israeli troops

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Intellectuals call for investigation into police shooting of Arab youth

A group of prominent Jewish and Arab intellectuals published a petition Thursday calling on the Israeli government to establish a committee of inquiry to investigate the shooting death of Khir Hamdan at the hands of Israeli police officers. Hamdan attempted trying to attack a police van, and was shot as he turned his back and began running from the police. The killing lead to widespread protests across the country, as well as a one-day general strike.

The petition states that tens of Arab citizens have been killed by the police since 2000. The signatories see that fact as a sign of a trigger-happy policy and a culture of racism within the police. According to the petition:

The list of deaths indicates the ease with which the police use weapons against Arab citizens – an unbearable ease that reflects the deterioration of professionalism and values of the police, and whose outcome is the unwarranted, brutal and illegal treatment of Arab arrestees and suspects.

The police’s brutal treatment of Arab citizens in Israel reflects the fact that the conclusions of the Or Commission were not internalized in the Israeli political establishment or in the police command, and were not implemented among the officers and policemen who work in the Arab sector. Policemen must remember that they are representatives of the government’s executive authority, and are responsible for protecting the life of Israel’s citizens, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity. They are not judges, not to mention executioners.

The signatories to the petition include journalist and former politician Yael Dayan, author Savyon Liebrecht, Dr. Ruwaida Abu Ras, journalist Oudeh Bisharat, Professor Shimon Levy, playwright Motti Lerner, author Salman Natour, playwright Joshua Sobol and author Yehudit Katzir among others.

More on the Hamdan killing:
PHOTOS: Protests in northern Israel after police kill Arab man
How police lied about the deadly shooting of Khir Hamdan
Netanyahu: Those who call to destroy Israel should have citizenship revoked

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PHOTOS: Palestinians break through separation wall near Jerusalem

Activists from the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee against the occupation broke a hole through the separation wall near Jerusalem on Saturday, marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The committee also sent out a press release which stated: “No matter how high walls are built, they will fall. Just as the Berlin Wall fell, the wall in Palestine will fall, along with the occupation.”

The press release also stated that the hole in the wall near Jerusalem serves as a reminder that the city is Palestinian, and that nothing will prevent Palestinians from reaching the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Related:
PHOTOS: Palestinians destroy separation barrier in two West Bank villages
Israeli army installs new, remote-controlled weapon atop separation wall

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Ceasefire: Israel, Hamas reach open-ended deal to end fighting

Israel and Hamas announced Tuesday evening that they had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered, open-ended ceasefire, after seven weeks of fighting left more than 2,200 people dead and tens of thousands wounded, the vast majority Palestinians.

Although the ceasefire went into effect at 7 p.m., both sides engaged in violence until the last minute. In Israel, a mortar attack killed two men in Kibbutz Nirim. Palestinians reported that an airstrike destroyed a seven-story building in Beit Lahiya.

Officials from both Hamas and Islamic Jihad stated that the ceasefire included an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials. According to an Israeli official, the supplies will enter the Strip under supervision.

However, Haaretz’s Barak Ravid reported that the ceasefire proposal does not include Hamas’ demands for a seaport, an airport or the release of prisoners. In future negotiations, said the official, both sides will present their demands, and Israel will raise the issue of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip.

Haaretz also reported that senior Hamas member Musa Abu Marzouk stated that the deal guarantees Hamas clerks will be paid their salaries by the Palestinian unity government, which will also be responsible for the reconstruction of the Strip. Meanwhile, Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported that the deal between Israel and the Palestinians includes permitting fishing at a distance of between 11 and 22 kilometers from the Strip’s shore. 

Ziad Nakhala, a senior Islamic Jihad official, said talks on more complex issues would begin in a month.

Thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets of Gaza Tuesday night, as well as in refugee camps in southern Lebanon, to celebrate what they viewed as a victory for Hamas. Israeli officials claimed their own victory, saying that the military dealt a strong blow to Hamas, killed several of its military leaders and destroyed the organizations’s underground tunnels.

Related:
Why did Netanyahu take aim at Gaza’s tallest towers?
Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper
What would Israelis say to families of civilian casualties in Gaza?

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Israeli airstrikes kill three in Gaza, rockets fired at Israel as ceasefire breaks down

After nearly a week of intense ceasefire negotiations, the truce between Israel and Hamas broke down Tuesday afternoon. At approximately 3:45 p.m. two rockets launched from the Gaza Strip exploded near Be’er Sheva, prompting Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon to order the Israeli military to respond, while also calling on the Israeli delegation to negotiations in Cairo to return to Israel.

The Israeli Air Force struck targets across Gaza Tuesday, killing a three-year-old girl and an unidentified woman after Israeli missiles hit the al-Dalou family home in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Palestinians fled their homes in Khan Younis to the south of the Gaza Strip, Beit Hanoun to the north, and from the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. According to Ma’an News Agency, ambulance crews and medics were searching for bodies among the rubble of the three-story home, which was reportedly hit by five missiles. Twelve Palestinians were killed in 2012 when Israel targeted the same home during Operation Pillar of Defense.

According to Reuters, Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzuk said Tuesday night that the strike on the al-Dalou home was an attempt to assassinate Muhammad Deif, the head of the Al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza.

Meanwhile, rockets fired from the Strip exploded in both southern Israel and the Tel Aviv area throughout the afternoon and evening.

According to Haaretz, a top Israeli official said that the collapse of the truce talks in Cairo followed two days of intensive negotiations. According to the official, the gaps between the sides remained significant, and the Egyptian efforts were only meant to delay the inevitable breakdown. Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri denied the group had fired the rockets at Israeli territory, accusing Israel of trying to sabotage truce talks in Cairo. ”Israel’s foot-dragging proves it has no will to reach a truce deal,” said Abu Zuhri, adding that “the Palestinian factions are ready for any scenario.”

Operation Protective Edge has so far claimed over 2,000 Palestinian lives and 67 Israeli lives, the vast majority of whom were soldiers killed during the ground invasion of Gaza.

Related:
Gaza dispatch: Why the people support Hamas
‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’

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Jerusalem terrorist attacks leave one Israeli dead; Israel, Hamas agree to 72-hour truce

Two terrorist attacks left one Israeli dead and several wounded in Jerusalem on Monday. The first attack, which took place around 1:30 p.m., occurred after a man driving a digger used his vehicle to flip over a public bus, killing one and wounding five others. Just several hours later, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire on a hitchhiking station near Hebrew University, severely wounding an Israeli soldier. The gunman fled the scene.

According to Haaretz, the assailant in the digger attack, Naif Jabis, drove his vehicle out of a construction site, hit a 25-year-old passerby, before turning toward a nearby square. After driving several meters further, he used the digger’s arm to flip over the bus. This is the first attack of its kind since July 2008, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem killed three and wounded dozens when he drove a bulldozer into a bus in central Jerusalem.

Both Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza agreed Monday night to an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, starting at 8 a.m. An Israeli delegation will head for Cairo for talks on a more permanent ceasefire agreementMeanwhile, both Spain and Britain announced that they would temporarily freeze arms exports to Israel over Operation Protective Edge.

The unilateral truce was announced as worldwide outrage spiked over an Israeli strike near a UN school on Sunday that killed 10 people.

A total of 21 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza Monday, including three children. According to the United Nations, more than 1,865 Palestinians have been killed in the operation, the vast majority of whom are civilians. Sirens sounded across the south as rockets and mortars shot from the Gaza Strip continued to explode in Israeli territory.

Related:
In Al Shifa, doctors can’t keep up with the wounded
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution

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Israeli army scales back forces from Gaza; air strike kills 10 in UN-run school

The Israeli army announced Sunday that it had withdrawn most of its troops from Gaza, although no official announcement has been issued to end the 29-day Operation Protective Edge.

According to Haaretz, Israeli forces that remain in Gaza are working on destroying one more tunnel near Rafah, while other units are operating in Beit Hanoun. The IDF has decided to keep some forces within Gaza to protect Israeli communities near the border.

The decision comes hours after the IDF declared the death of Hadar Goldin, an Israeli lieutenant who was previously believed to have been captured by Hamas militants on Friday. According to a senior Israeli officer, the military made the decision based on evidence found on the battlefield in Rafah.

Goldin’s death brings the number of IDF fatalities to 64.

The withdrawal comes on the heels of an attack on a UN-run school in the Strip, which killed at least 10 Palestinians. According to medics, the school housed Gaza residents displaced by the current operation. Gaza health officials said 30 Palestinians had died by noon on Sunday, including in an attack on a house in Rafah that killed four.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Palestinian death toll has passed 1,700, including about 400 children. At least 9,000 have been wounded.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into Israel, with 13 rockets and mortar shells fired so far on Sunday.

A delegation from Hamas and Islamic Jihad arrived in Cairo Sunday for indirect ceasefire talks with Israel, which are to be conducted through Egyptian and U.S. officials. The talks, should they take off, would include Hamas’ demand that Egypt ease movement across its border with blockaded Gaza. Israel rebuffed the invitation to the ceasefire talks on Saturday, saying that it would not send its envoy to Cairo. 

Related:
Palestinians flock to hospital to wait out assault
The bloody devolution of a ‘ceasefire’
Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths

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Israeli air strikes kill 120 Palestinians in single day; Hamas refuses truce without end to blockade

Over 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday. as both Israel and Hamas evaluated a proposed humanitarian ceasefire. A top PLO official said that Palestinian factions in Gaza had agreed to a day-long humanitarian truce, a claim that was quickly refuted by Hamas.

Israeli airstrikes also destroyed Gaza’s only power station Tuesday morning. Amnesty International condemned the strike, saying it amounted to “collective punishment of Palestinians.” The strike on the plant is liable worsen severe problems with Gaza’s water supply, sewage treatment and power supplies to medical facilities.

Meanwhile, the head of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, stated that “there won’t be a cease fire without the end of [Israeli] hostility and the lifting of the blockade.”

Deif turned to the residents of the Gaza and praised them for their “resilience.” According to Deif, Hamas “will not accept interim solutions, and Israel must know that it send its troops to hell.”

Operation Protective Edge has claimed the lives of more than 1,210 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are civilians according to the UN, and has wounded over 7,000 others. On the Israeli side, 56 people have died since the operation began, including three civilians.

Peru and Chile recalled their Israel ambassadors late Tuesday due to what they deemed the “collective punishment” of Gaza. The two follow similar decisions by Ecuador and Brazil last week.

Just hours later, the armed wing released a video showing the previous day’s infiltration into a military base in Nahal Oz, which killed five Israeli soldiers. The release of the video came just hours after an IDF unit opened fire and killed five militants who were spotted coming out of a tunnel near southern Gaza.

Senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office denied claims that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Netanyahu had requested the the U.S. move forward the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, according to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid. According to the officials, “Kerry was the one who brought up the option of a cease-fire to Netanyahu, not the opposite.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi (Balad) was banned from Knesset plenum sessions for six months due to her controversial statements on the kidnapping of three Israeli teens last month.

Related:
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?
Not about tunnels: Israeli tanks take aim at central Gaza

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Five Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; Palestinian death toll hits 1,088

As world leaders attempted to, once more, broker a humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Monday, the IDF announced that five Israeli soldiers were killed over the course of the day. Four of them were killed by mortar shell fire near the border with Gaza, while a fifth was killed in clashes with Hamas militants in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Israeli Air Force pounded the Strip into the early hours of Tuesday morning, a day after its airstrikes killed a total of 44 Palestinians. Another 12 bodies were recovered from the rubble by medical teams earlier in the day, according to Ma’an News Agency.

Ma’an also reported that 10 people were killed Monday afternoon by an Israeli air strike on a children’s playground in al-Shati refugee camp. Families had gathered to celebrate the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which ended in horror with eight children among the dead. Although Israel blamed the deaths on a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket, eyewitnesses, along with Gaza police who inspected the rubble and victims’ bodies, confirmed the strike was Israeli.

Gaza Ministry of Health Spokesman said over the last 21 days, a total of 1,088 Palestinians have been killed and 6,470 have been injured. Of the dead, 251 were children and 50 elderly, while 1,980 children and 259 elderly have been wounded.

Earlier on Monday, five Palestinian militants breached the Israeli border and opened fire at IDF soldiers near Nahal Oz on the border with Gaza. The soldiers returned fire, killing one Palestinian. According to the IDF, the other militants retreated to the tunnel shaft from which they came, and an Israeli aircraft in the area did not manage to target them.

In a press conference Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is prepared for a prolonged operation in Gaza, saying that “there is no war more just than the heroic one our sons are fighting in.”

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

“Bravery and determination are needed to fight a terror group which seeks our destruction,” Netanyahu stated, adding that the operation would not end before the tunnels from the Gaza Strip were neutralized.

Related:
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?
PHOTOS: Gazans use ‘ceasefire’ to pick up the pieces



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Obama calls on Netanyahu to accept unconditional humanitarian ceasefire; 15 killed in Gaza

In a phone call held Sunday night, U.S. President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu that there is a “strategic imperative” to reach an immediate humanitarian ceasefire based on the one agreed to in November 2012 after the previous round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

According to Obama, the U.S. supports the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, as well as international efforts to bring about an end to hostilities, stressing that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must include the disarmament of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The call comes on the heels of a 40-hour humanitarian ceasefire that ended late Saturday night after rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel. The Israeli security cabinet voted to extend a humanitarian pause in fighting until midnight Sunday, as per the UN’s request, but insisted that the IDF continue to neutralize Gaza tunnels. A Hamas spokesman responded to the decision by stating that “Any ceasefire that doesn’t ensure that the IDF pulls out of Gaza and the evacuation of the injured is not acceptable to Hamas.” However, the organization later requested another humanitarian ceasefire, which the Israeli cabinet rejected.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to broker a ceasefire on Friday evening, although his proposal was immediately shot down by Israeli cabinet members who bashed Kerry for proposing a ceasefire which, in their eyes, served Hamas’ interests and betrayed Israel. According to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid, a top U.S. official called the reactions “extremely offensive. Mainly the charges that he betrayed our closest ally in the region – Israel.”

The official added that the draft proposal presented by Kerry to Israel was intended “for Israeli comments and input” as part of a coordinated effort by the U.S. and Israel to secure a ceasefire.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 15 Palestinians were killed by IDF fire on Saturday, and 53 others were wounded. According to Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian medics managed to recover 117 bodies on Saturday, since they had access to large areas that had previously been off-limits before the ceasefire. Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge 1,034 were killed and 6,233 were wounded. Forty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed since the start of the operation, and hundreds have been wounded.

Related:
PHOTOS: Gazans use ‘ceasefire’ to pick up the pieces
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
Israeli, Hamas war crimes becoming increasingly hard to distinguish

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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