+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 23 Aug 2014 14:23:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Israeli child killed by mortar; Hamas executes 18 suspected collaborators http://972mag.com/israeli-child-killed-by-mortar-hamas-executes-18-suspected-collaborators/95876/ http://972mag.com/israeli-child-killed-by-mortar-hamas-executes-18-suspected-collaborators/95876/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 21:08:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95876 Update: The IDF has confirmed that the mortar shell that killed a 4-year-old Israeli child Friday evening was not fired from a UN-run shelter for Gazan refugees, as earlier reported by Haaretz.

On the 46th day of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge at least 113 projectiles were fired into Israel from Gaza. A mortar attack early Friday evening  killed four-year-old Israeli child Daniel Tregerman – the first child fatality on the Israel side since the start of hostilities more than six weeks ago. This was also the first Israeli fatality since a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel broke down last Friday and fighting resumed.

Haaretz reported that, according to a military source, the mortar that killed Tregerman was fired from a school used by the UN to house Gazan refugees in Gaza City.

Israelis check the scene in which a rocket shot from the Gaza Strip has hit a street in the city of Beer Sheva, August 22, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Israelis check the scene in which a rocket shot from the Gaza Strip has hit a street in the city of Beer Sheva, August 22, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Meanwhile, Friday’s death toll in Gaza reached seven, a day after Israeli airstrikes killed 38 across the Strip. More than 65 Palestinians have been killed since Israel relaunched its assault on Gaza late Tuesday, bringing the total Palestinian death toll in the six-week assault to more than 2,090.

According to Ynetafter Israel killed several senior Hamas military chiefs on Wednesday, the group’s military wing executed 18 alleged collaborators on Friday. Seven were killed by Hamas militants in a central Gaza square in what were reportedly the first public executions in the Strip since the 1990s. Eleven other alleged collaborators were killed by firing squad at an abandoned police station.

Palestinian youth throw stones during a weekly protest against the Israeli occupation and a solidarity protest with Gaza, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 22, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinian youth throw stones during a weekly protest against the Israeli occupation and a solidarity protest with Gaza, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 22, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

While in the West Bank, hundreds protested all over in solidarity with Gaza, particularly in Hebron, where Hamas supporters clashed with Palestinian Authority security forces. According to media reports, tear gas was used to disperse the crowd, which was advancing towards a nearby Israeli army checkpoint.

Related:
Photos of the week: Ceasefire begins and ends
Israel kills three top Hamas commanders in Gaza
What would Israelis say to families of civilian casualties in Gaza?

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Photos of the week: Ceasefire begins and ends http://972mag.com/photos-of-the-week-ceasefire-begins-and-ends/95836/ http://972mag.com/photos-of-the-week-ceasefire-begins-and-ends/95836/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:34:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95836 This week: Palestinian and Israeli protests across the political, ethnic and religious spectrum; homes and property damaged and destroyed in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel; aid for those suffering; and a wedding under protest.

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, Nablus, West Bank, August 15, 2014. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, Nablus, West Bank, August 15, 2014. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians check the damages caused to the house of wanted Palestinian Zakaria al-Aqra, 24, who was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Qabalan, Nablus, August 11, 2014. Six people from his family were wounded and parts of his house was destroyed during the 8-hour operation. Qabalan village has been raided several times in the last two weeks by Israeli army. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians check the damage caused to the house of wanted Palestinian Zakaria al-Aqra, 24, who was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Qabalan, Nablus, August 11, 2014. Six people from his family were wounded and parts of his house were destroyed during the 8-hour operation. Qabalan village has been raided several times in the last two weeks by the Israeli army. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Ibrahim Abu Odeh (Abu Alaa), 60 years old, stands at his window in the early morning examining what left of his neighborhood. Next to him is one of the rooms of his house, completely destroyed. Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, August 12, 2014. Abu Alaa lives in a three-story building that has six apartments, occupied by his five married sons and their families, 33 people in total, 21 of them children. He was forced to flee his house with his family, along with the residents of Beit Hanoun due to the Israeli attack. They took shelter in the Jabalya secondary school for boys, in Jabalya refugee camp, but returned to their bombed home because of harsh condition in the school. Since then they are living in their destroyed house without electricity and gas. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Ibrahim Abu Odeh (Abu Alaa), 60 years old, stands at his window in the early morning, examining what’s left of his neighborhood. Next to him is one of the rooms of his house, completely destroyed. Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, August 12, 2014. Abu Alaa lives in a three-story building that has six apartments, occupied by his five married sons and their families, 33 people in total, 21 of them children. He was forced to flee his house with his family, along with the residents of Beit Hanoun due to the Israeli attack. They took shelter in the Jabalya Secondary School for Boys, in Jabalya Refugee Camp, but returned to their bombed home because of harsh condition in the school. Since then they have been living in their destroyed house without electricity or gas. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Israeli activists dressed in white and wearing white masks, walk in Rothschild boulevard in centre Tel Aviv, during a direct action in solidarity with the victims of the Gaza war, August 13, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli activists dressed in white and wearing white masks, walk in Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv, during a direct action in solidarity with the victims of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, August 13, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis of Kurdish origins demonstrate in solidarity with the Yazidi community in front of American Embassy in Tel Aviv, August 13, 2014. The Yazidi community in northern Iraq has recently been attacked by extremists of the Islamic State group. The protesters called on the U.S intervention. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis of Kurdish origin demonstrate in solidarity with the Yazidi community in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, August 13, 2014. The Yazidi community in northern Iraq has recently been attacked by extremists of the Islamic State. The protesters called for U.S. intervention. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian women argue with an Israeli soldiers, after a Palestinian youth was shot with live ammunition and was taken by the army, during the weekly protest against the occupation, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 15, 2014. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Palestinian women argue with Israeli soldiers after a Palestinian youth was shot with live ammunition and was taken by the army during the weekly protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 15, 2014. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Right-wing supporters of the Organization for Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land (LEHAVA) shout slogans as they protest outside the wedding hall where Mahmoud Mansour, an Arab-Israeli, and Morel Malcha, a Jewish, got married on August 17, 2014 in the Israeli costal city of Rishon Letzion. Police arrested at least 7 right wing protesters, as over 300 were protesting against the wedding. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing supporters of the Organization for Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land (LEHAVA) shout slogans as they protest outside the wedding hall where Mahmoud Mansour, an Arab-Israeli, and Morel Malcha, a Jewish-Israeli, were married on August 17, 2014 in the Israeli city of Rishon Letzion. Police arrested at least seven right-wing protesters among over 300 who were protesting against the wedding. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Manmoud Mansour arrive his family house toghatar with his wife Moral Malcha, 23 (not seen), Jaffa, Israel on August 17, 2014, before their wedding celebration in the evening in Rishon LeZion. Moral was born Jewish and converted to Islam before marrying Mahmoud some months ago. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Manmoud Mansour arrives at his family house together with his wife Morel Malcha, 23 (not seen), Jaffa, Israel on August 17, 2014, before their wedding celebration in the evening in Rishon LeZion. Morel was born Jewish and converted to Islam some months ago before marrying Mahmoud. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Gazans receive nutritional support from UNRWA during the cease-fire. Each family receives one bag of flour and another bag of rice. Gaza City, August 17, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Gazans receive food support from UNRWA during a ceasefire. Each family receives one bag of flour and another bag of rice. Gaza City, August 17, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Eighteen Palestinians injured during the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip seen at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, a distance of around 70 kilometers from Gaza, before being taken to hospitals in Turkey by a Turkish military plane, Isreal, August 13, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Eighteen Palestinians injured during the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip are seen at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, a distance of around 70 kilometers from Gaza, before being taken to hospitals in Turkey by a Turkish military plane, Israel, August 13, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis soldier check the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip has directly hit a house, southern Israel, August 21, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier photographs the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip directly hit a house, southern Israel, August 21, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis check the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip has directly hit a animal farm, southern Israel, August 21, 2014.(Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli looks at dead cows after a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip hit a dairy farm, southern Israel, August 21, 2014.(Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis hold signs read: " When there is no peace, war comes" during a demonstration calling for negotiations between Israel and the Palestine on August 16, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Thousands of demonstrators gathered Saturday evening for a pro-peace rally under the slogan, 'Changing Direction: Toward Peace, Away From War.' (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis hold signs reading, “When there is no peace, war comes” during a demonstration calling for negotiations between Israel and the Palestine on August 16, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Thousands of demonstrators gathered Saturday evening for a pro-peace rally under the slogan, “Changing Direction: Toward Peace, Away From War.” (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Related:
Wedding crashers: Do anti-miscegenation protesters hate or love Judaism?
10,000 protest in Tel Aviv for a just peace, end to occupation
PHOTOS: Israeli forces kill Palestinian and bulldoze his family house

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Netanyahu tweets Foley execution shot to score points against Hamas http://972mag.com/netanyahu-tweets-foley-execution-video-to-score-points-against-hamas/95820/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-tweets-foley-execution-video-to-score-points-against-hamas/95820/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:07:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95820 Bibi went there.

[This post has been updated.]

The official account of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on a roll today comparing apples and oranges ISIS and Hamas. First there was a Venn diagram comparing some of the key similarities between the two groups (although inexplicably skipping some of the equally relevant ones, such as that both group use guns, sport woolly balaclavas and operate east of Sicily.)

Then, however, the prime minister stepped it up a notch by using a frame from James Foley’s murder video and a frame from Hamas’s 2012 summary execution of suspected informants, to indicate that ravens and writing desks Hamas and ISIS are one and the same.

There’s the sheer visual inanity of comparing two strikingly different images. The two frames could not possibly be further apart in colour, composition and content, from the activity captured to the context in which the atrocities were carried out. (The Hamas execution was a horrific atrocity in its own right, of course.)

But there’s an even more sinister aspect. Since the release of the video, friends and colleagues of Foley have called on users not to watch the video – not to give ISIS the pleasure – and editors across the United States and beyond have made the commendable decision not to air or stream it, both to spare friends and family the pain, and to deny ISIS the goal of intimidation they so sadistically sought through their meticulously choreographed butchery.

Netanyahu’s people, apparently, care little for either the feelings of Foley’s loved ones or for handing ISIS a propaganda victory. Here you have it, from the horse’s mouth: the nihilistic goons from ISIS are just as representative of the people they rule as Hamas – for all its faults and its own share of atrocities, a genuine, grassroots, democratically elected movement – is of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Great way to go about it, Bibi.

Screenshot of Netanyahu's tweet comparing Hamas and ISIS. 1149 PM IDT 21 Aug 2014

 

Updates Fri 22/08: About four hours later, the PMO deleted the picture above, replacing Foley’s picture with the  Comic Sans Arabic ISIS logo from the Venne diagram. Now the two images look even more different:

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.15.20

 

Also, in the original post I joked about how Netanyahu’s Venn diagram neglects to mention another crucial “shared interest” between the groups – a kink for wooly balaclavas. Luckily, Stephen Pollard and the Jewish Chronicle got Bibi’s back:

BvmLGI8IIAAy9Ce

 

(h/t Daniel Trilling)

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Israel kills three top Hamas commanders in Gaza http://972mag.com/israel-kills-three-top-hamas-commanders-in-gaza/95817/ http://972mag.com/israel-kills-three-top-hamas-commanders-in-gaza/95817/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:54:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95817 At least 34 Palestinians were killed Thursday when the Israeli air force bombed Gaza for a second day after a temporary ceasefire broke down and negotiators failed to reach a ceasefire agreement.

While the fate of Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif remains unknown after Israel attempted to assassinate him, and consequently killed his wife and two young children, the Israeli military confirmed that it had killed three top Hamas commanders, Raed Attar, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Mohammed Barhoum, in Rafah. Attar and Abu Shamaleh are thought to both have been involved in the 2006 Gilad Shalit kidnapping. Israel’s Shin Bet also believes that the Rafah division, which Attar headed, was responsible for abducting Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed during Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza.

Meanwhile, heavy rocket fire from Gaza into Israel’s south continued throughout the day, with a mortar attack causing damage to a protected structure, and an earlier attack moderately to seriously injuring a 33-year-old Israeli man, both in the Eshkol region. The Iron Dome also intercepted a rocket over the Modi’in area Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet approved the call-up of an additional 10,000 reserve soldiers. (photo: Activestills)

Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet approved the call-up of an additional 10,000 reserve soldiers. (photo: Activestills)

Four Palestinians in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli airstrike that targeted a cemetery in the Sheikh al-Radwan district. Ma’an reported that the victims were burying relatives who had been killed overnight by Israeli airstrikes. Since the resumption of fighting the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 2,049, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

On the diplomatic front more details have come to light on the joint German-French-British effort to broker a UN Security Council resolution to end the fighting between Hamas and Israel. Key points in a document circulated among diplomats and obtained by Haaretz include Palestinian Authority control of Gaza, a ban of unauthorized weapons sales, reconstruction of Gaza under international supervision and restarting peace talks based on the 1967 borders.

In internal Hamas politics, Ma’an reported that the group had executed three alleged collaborators with Israel and arrested seven others, a Hamas-affiliated website said Thursday.

The Israeli cabinet approved the call-up of an additional 10,000 reserve soldiers.

Related:
Palestinian teen: I was used as a human shield in Gaza
Not even a ‘bump on the wing’ these days when killing Palestinians
Netanyahu’s zero-sum war in Gaza

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Palestinian teen: I was used as a human shield in Gaza http://972mag.com/palestinian-teen-i-was-used-as-a-human-shield-in-gaza/95800/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-teen-i-was-used-as-a-human-shield-in-gaza/95800/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:09:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95800 An affidavit obtained exclusively by +972 reveals what appears to be the first documented case of a ‘human shield’ used by the Israeli military during its invasion of the eastern Gaza town of Khuza’a.

Ahmad Abu Raida, now 17, was separated from his family by Israeli soldiers on July 23 as he and his family were trying to flee to safety. During Abu Raida’s five-day captivity, an Israeli soldier, who insisted he be called “captain,” repeatedly asked the boy about alleged Hamas tunnels and rocket launching sites in his neighborhood.

“I told him I did not know,” Abu Raida, who was 16 years old at the time of the incident, said. “‘I’m young. I’m 17 years old. How am I supposed to know these things?’ I said to him, but he became angry and started punching and kicking me.”

Abu Raida’s case was documented by Defense for Children International-Palestine, which released a statement Thursday based on the affidavit it collected. +972 spoke with the 17-year-old earlier today.

Trying to escape

Abu Raida’s ordeal followed two days of intense shelling from Israeli tanks, which had crossed the Gaza border near to his home. When his family decided to try and escape on foot, they were stopped by Israeli soldiers.

“I heard a soldier on one of the tanks ordering women, children and old people to stand on one side, and those between 20 and 40 years old to stand on the other side of the street,” Abu Raida said in the affidavit.

After seeing that men in the 20-40 group were taken to an empty field and made to strip down to their underwear, the 17-year-old “took two steps back to see what was going on.”

When he did, Abu Raida said an Israeli soldier took him to the open field, about 100 meters from the group of men, tied his hands with a plastic chord, and forced him to kneel down. According to Abu Raida, the soldier then proceeded to punch him in the stomach and face while saying repeatedly, “You’re not human, you’re a dog.”

At around 4 p.m., according to the affidavit, the men were taken away for questioning and the women, children and older residents were released. Abu Raida was blindfolded, made to strip to his underwear, and taken to a house.

Ahmad Abu Raida holds the the letter he wrote while detained by Israeli soldiers and used as a human shield in Gaza for five days from July 23, 2014 in Khuza'a, Gaza Strip. (photo: DCI-Palestine)

Ahmad Abu Raida holds a the letter he wrote while detained by Israeli soldiers and used as a human shield in Gaza for five days from July 23, 2014 in Khuza’a, Gaza Strip. (photo: DCI-Palestine)

‘Are you Hamas?’ 

“When the blindfold was removed, I found myself inside the house surrounded by more than 20 soldiers,” Abu Raida told DCI-Palestine. Someone “in military uniform” then approached him and shouted in broken Arabic: “I need to settle the score with Hamas. Are you Hamas?”

After the questioning, Abu Raida was taken to a nearby house, with soldiers forcing him to walk in front of them, the affidavit said. After they gave him “water, two cookies and some nuts,” the soldiers made Abu Raida sit in a chair and tied his hands behind his back.

Abu Raida told +972 that the fear he felt that first night was compounded because he “had no idea what was going to happen.” He added that “there was no one else in the area,” as most of Khuza’a's residents had fled following the Israeli ground invasion.

“I was blindfolded at night,” Abu Raida told +972, “but I always tried to see where I was before they put the blindfold on.”

Looking for tunnels

Abu Raida described being taken out of the house the following day, at about 1 p.m., by a soldier who “made me walk in front of him and [ordered] me in broken Arabic to [turn] ‘left and right’. He was walking about three meters behind me.”

The soldiers then took Abu Raida to two houses, ordering him to “[g]et in and see if there are tunnels or not,” according to the 17-year-old. He told them that he did not find any, which prompted the “captain” to physically assault the child.

“He started punching and kicking me. He even brought a wire and hit me with it on my back,” Abu Raida told DCI-Palestine.

Here is Abu Raida’s complete account of the abuse:

“I was crying and begging him to stop, but he did not show any mercy. He kept hitting me over and over. He poured a glass of water on my trousers. He insulted me using very dirty words that I am familiar with, and other dirty words that I have never heard of. Even soldiers who did not speak Arabic insulted me as well. They threatened to ‘shove a stick into my … bottom’ if I did not tell them where the tunnels were.”

Writing his will

Abu Raida described a similar experience that occurred the following day. After being forced to enter two more houses “to search for tunnels” and finding none, he was again scolded by one of the soldiers and placed in a room by himself. “While I was in the room, I found a notebook and a pen inside a bag… so I decided to write my will and leave it for my family,” Abu Raida said in the affidavit.

DCI-Palestine provided an English translation of Abu Raida’s letter (pictured below in Arabic):

“I spent Friday, 25 July with Israel occupation soldiers who were locking me in this room. I do not know whether I am going to live or they would kill me. I do not know anything about what would happen next to me. I am writing this letter hoping someone would find it and inform my family about it. In case I die or get arrested, please send my greetings to my family. Ahmad Jamal Abu Raida.”

Later that day, Abu Raida was fed “three bites” of sardine.

The original letter written by Ahmad Abu Raida while detained by Israeli soldiers and used as a human shield in Gaza for five days from July 23, 2014 in Khuza'a, Gaza Strip. (photo: DCI-Palestine)

The original letter written by Ahmad Abu Raida while detained by Israeli soldiers and used as a human shield in Gaza for five days from July 23, 2014 in Khuza’a, Gaza Strip. (photo: DCI-Palestine)

An ‘offer’ to spy

On July 26, according to the affidavit, Abu Raida was ordered to climb down into a hole and dig for tunnels. When he replied that the hole was the beginnings of “a sanitation well,” the captain “took off his helmet and hit me with it on my head,” said Abu Raida.

After complaining that he was feeling ill and could not dig anymore, Abu Raida was taken to a relative’s house, where soldiers again interrogated him about alleged Hamas tunnels:

“I told them I did not know anything about the tunnels, so they would slap me across the face or on my neck, or punch me or kick me whenever they wanted,” Abu Raida said.

After a night of repeated questioning and physical abuse – including being forced “to sit and stand up again more than 60 times” – Abu Raida was asked the following morning if he would “work for them as a spy.” After he refused, a soldier “pointed to the police dogs they had with them and said, ‘You see that dog, it’s better than you.’”

According to the affidavit, at around 1 p.m. on July 27, the fifth day of Abu Raida’s captivity, the soldiers allowed him to put his clothes back on and released him.

Clear case

“The Israeli military has consistently accused Hamas of using civilians – particularly children – as human shields, but this incident represents a clear case of their soldiers forcing a child to directly assist in military operations,” Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine, said in a statement the group released on the case.

Abu Raida is now with his family in nearby Khan Younis, where Khuza’a residents have sought shelter from Israeli tank shelling. The shelling, according to the United Nations, has displaced nearly half a million Palestinians and destroyed tens of thousands of homes along Gaza’s border with Israel. Abu Raida told +972 that his family’s home had sustained damage “on the outside and the inside,” with bullet holes evident on the walls.

Clear evidence of a military operation in Khuza’a supports allegations that Abu Raida was used as a human shield, said Ivan Karakashian, advocacy unit coordinator for DCI-Palestine. “Under international law, you would be considered a human shield when you are forced to assist in a military operation.”

DCI-Palestine advocacy officer Brad Parker added that the military’s actions could constitute a war crime: “War crimes are defined as violations of the laws and customs of war, or violations of international humanitarian law, and include willful killing, torture, attacking civilians or civilian structures, and using civilians as human shields, among other offenses. While Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Israeli forces are obligated to follow international humanitarian law.”

Israel last week barred Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International researchers from entering Gaza. In a statement released Wednesday, Amnesty International’s director of research and crisis response, Anne Fitzgerald, said: “The victims’ and the public’s right to know about what happened during the recent hostilities requires the Israeli authorities to ensure full transparency about their actions and to refrain from hindering independent and impartial research into all alleged violations.”

+972 has approached the IDF spokesperson for comment, which will be added once it is received.

Related:
Israel, Hamas war crimes becoming increasingly hard to distinguish
Testimonies by Israeli soldiers detail abuse of Palestinian children
Testimonies: Systematic abuse, beatings and threats against Palestinian children

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Israelis in the U.S. urge the Jewish community to take a closer look at Gaza http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/ http://972mag.com/israelis-in-the-u-s-urge-the-jewish-community-to-take-a-closer-look-at-gaza/95791/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:07:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95791 ‘We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine,’ says a public letter published by Israelis for a Sustainable Future. ‘We argue that these terms might be one and the same.’

A group of Israelis living in the U.S. has published an open letter the the American Jewish community, calling on it to join them in opposition to the war in Gaza and the years-long blockade Israel has imposed on the Strip. While condemning Hamas’ targeting of civilians, the group states that “maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about.”

The group, calling itself Israelis for a Sustainable Future, was started in response to the war, but organizers told me that they wish to continue their activity even if a ceasefire is reached. The appeal to the Jewish community was born out of its engagement and influence over Israel-Palestine, organizers say.

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza'a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza’a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Here is the public letter in its entirely. You can see the list of signatures here, or follow them on Twitter.

We are a group of Israelis currently living in the U.S. We are reaching out to you because we oppose the actions of the Israeli government in operation ‘Protective Edge.’

This does not mean we don’t recognize the threat presented by Hamas to the Israeli people. We oppose firing of weapons into civilian population and the sacrifice of civilians by the regimes of both Hamas and the Israeli government. Calling to stop the bombing of Gaza does not mean we don’t realize the impossible conditions imposed on the residents of southern Israel. Nor does it mean we don’t demand security for them. But we also recognize that their plight is consistently ignored by the Israeli government until it becomes convenient for exploitation. We have seen three major military operations in less than six years. They repeat themselves because they don’t work. Yes, Hamas reserves are temporary depleted and the group is temporarily hindered. But this is not a moral price worth paying. Even if it were, killing thousands of civilians and displacing of hundreds of thousands doesn’t weaken Hamas in the long run. This bloodshed only feeds the one resource it can’t go without: hate. Only meaningful peace talks and an end to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza (a blockade is still occupation) will prevent both the next round of rockets into Israel and the next round of indiscriminate killings in Gaza.

We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.

The belief that being ‘pro-Israel’ means uncritically supporting the actions of the Israeli government and military does not help the Israeli people. The Israeli people do not benefit from being oppressors. Israeli society does not benefit from ruling over 4 million Palestinians. The Israeli soldier does not benefit from risking his or her life in wars that could have been avoided.

The Israeli people gain nothing from perpetuating the occupation. Israeli children learn nothing from being taught everybody wants to kill them. And the Israeli population does not grow stronger from rising aggression within it, from a loss of tolerance and from a surge of violent racism against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

But maintaining the occupation is what this war is all about. Unfortunately, the regimes in Israel are becoming increasingly cynical, willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary to maintain their position of power and their control over the Palestinian people.

We believe this war could have been avoided. We don’t believe all Palestinians want to kill us. And we are happy to explain where we are coming from.

We believe that a biased media attempts to draw symmetry that does not exist. Just look at the numbers. Look at the pictures. Throwing blame at international criticism isn’t making Israel look any better. Taking action to stop human rights violation would. We obviously do not condone any form of anti-Semitism in this discourse, but we also feel that dismissing the entire discourse as anti-Semitism is not helpful to anyone.

Most of all, we believe that blood is blood, all equal and all worth the same. And we are well aware of what happens when the lives of one people are deemed to be worth less than those of others.

Israel needs your support to break out of the cycle of violence:

We encourage you to tell your community leaders to critically examine the Israeli government policies they rally behind. We urge you to support the moderate voices in Israel, forces that find themselves increasingly under attack by their own government and the Israeli media, and even physically assaulted by right winged vigilantes. We ask you to write to your congressional representatives to share your conviction that Israel can only be safe and prosperous if it stops the killing of civilians, ends the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and guarantees freedom and equality to all of its citizens. We invite you to start a fruitful dialogue with us.

Thank you,
IFSF | Israelis For a Sustainable Future

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+972 Magazine’s full coverage of the war in Gaza.

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Not even a ‘bump on the wing’ these days when killing Palestinians http://972mag.com/not-even-a-bump-on-the-wing-these-days-when-killing-palestinians/95778/ http://972mag.com/not-even-a-bump-on-the-wing-these-days-when-killing-palestinians/95778/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:06:36 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95778 No one in Israel really talks about the killing of innocent Palestinians anymore. There was a time when we murdered people and it actually bothered us.

On Tuesday, the IDF attempted to kill Mohammed Deif, the military leader of Hamas in Gaza, by dropping five one-tonne bombs on a home. As these lines are written it is not yet clear whether Deif was killed. What can be said with certainty, however, is that his wife and eight-month-old son definitely were.

Deif has been on Israel’s wanted list for years. On Tuesday night it saw a chance, and despite the fact that it knew of other innocent civilians in the building, it went after him. The decision was made.

And as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, this is not the first time.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack on the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of the Abu Jame’ family. (photo: Activestills)

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack on the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of the Abu Jame’ family. (photo: Activestills)

But no one in Israel really talks about these things anymore. I say this because I remember a time when we used to. There was a time when we murdered people and it actually bothered us.

I was reminded of this recently after watching a short documentary made by military analyst Yoav Limor for Israel’s Channel  2, called “The Human Shield.” If you understand Hebrew I highly recommend watching it, for it gives deep insight into the chilling justifications and rationalizations Israelis make for killing innocent people.

One poignant segment is that of human rights attorney Michael Sfard, who compares what is happening in Gaza today to what happened in 2002 when Israel killed then-Hamas military chief Salah Shehadeh. Sfard points out that there was a debate about the morality of killing Shehadeh, who died together with 14 innocent people that day, many of them children.

I’ve been writing for years about what this country is turning into before my eyes. The total lack of empathy for suffering on the other side is a result of deeply ingrained racism. In my eyes the Israeli response, or shall I say the lack of it, to the recent massacres in Gaza is the epitome of the unraveling of Israeli society over the past decade.

The Hebrew Wikipedia entry on the assassination of Shehadeh in 2002 states that the killing “gained criticism among left wingers in Israel.”

That wasn’t the only thing that happened back then. There were threats of taking pilots, officers and politicians to The Hague for war crimes. It also prompted the famous “Pilots Letter,” in which IDF pilots refused to take part in targeted killings. And there was even an inquiry panel that was formed, only to obviously point out that all was OK.

But probably the most memorable reaction to the assassination was that of then-Israeli Air Force Chief Dan Halutz (who later became Chief of Staff). When asked what he felt when he dropped a bomb on civilians, this is what he had to say:

No. That is not a legitimate question and it is not asked. But if you nevertheless want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb’s release. A second later it’s gone, and that’s all. That is what I feel.

That was 2002. A one-tonne bomb, on one building.

Fast forward to July-August 2014. The IDF is dropping hundreds of one-tonne bombs over Gaza, but nobody is talking about it.

The Shejaiya neighborhood, wiped out like Dresden.

It’s a given. It just happens.

There’s no debate. No second thoughts.

Take a look at the picture below. Based on data from B’Tselem, it shows members of families killed in their homes in 59 incidents of bombing or shelling. In these incidents, 458 people were killed, including 108 women under the age of 60, 214 minors and 18 people over the age of 60.

btselem

B’Tselem figures for Palestinian families bombed at home, Gaza, July-August 2014 (initial figures)

Twelve years ago when we murdered innocent people, there were some people who were bothered by it. They raised their voices. They did something. It made it into the media. There was a debate.

There was more than a “bump in the wing.”

But now?

Now Israelis couldn’t care less.

Related:
Read aloud the names of the Abu Jame’ family, then tell me this isn’t a war crime
When ‘not in my name’ is all you have in the face of a massacre
Don’t cry for me: A letter from a little girl in Gaza

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Netanyahu’s zero-sum war in Gaza http://972mag.com/netanyahus-zero-sum-war-in-gaza/95763/ http://972mag.com/netanyahus-zero-sum-war-in-gaza/95763/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:24:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95763 As evidence of Israeli war crimes mounts in Gaza, Netanyahu’s latest escalation will only add to his country’s increasing international pariah status.

Just over 24 hours after reports emerged that Israel and the Palestinians – with American urging – had reached a deal to gradually end the Gaza blockade, Israel began targeting the very people with whom it had been indirectly negotiating. Following a reported assassination attempt on Hamas military wing leader Mohammed Deif, which instead killed his wife and young child, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she would “always support the targeted killings of terror leaders,” adding unequivocally: “I do not negotiate with Hamas.”

A Palestinian man retrieves his belongings from the rubble of a destroyed house in Beit Hanoun following bombardment by Israeli forces, northern Gaza Strip, August 11, 2014. According to OCHA, 16,800 homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or severely damaged, leaving 370,000 displaced. (photo: Activestills)

A Palestinian man retrieves his belongings from the rubble of a destroyed house in Beit Hanoun following bombardment by Israeli forces, northern Gaza Strip, August 11, 2014. According to OCHA, 16,800 homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or severely damaged, leaving 370,000 displaced. (photo: Activestills)

But Israel’s about-face doesn’t add up. Ultimately, the indirect talks in Cairo have always been with Hamas, and though they have been tense from the get-go, preceding periods of calm – the most recent lasting six days, and interrupted first by last Friday’s Israeli fire at residential areas in Khan Younis – have yielded hope for a long-term truce. When that hope dimmed, the ensuing violence fell within predictable, if no less horrifying, parameters – Gaza’s resistance fired rockets, and Israel’s military bombed what it termed “terror targets.” But this time those “targets” are not the facilities – hospitals, schools, factories – Israel has struck over the past six weeks; they are individual Hamas leaders.

The move suggests a zero-sum Israeli strategy aimed at “eliminating” any of the people capable of forging a way out of the current confrontation. This strategy was tried in 2012 when Israel assassinated top Hamas negotiator Ahmad Jabari, prompting Hamas retaliation and a nine-day Israeli assault that cost the lives of more than 400 Palestinians. Given that operation’s failure to achieve Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated aim of crushing Hamas’ military capability, one wonders what the rationale behind Israel’s current round of assassinations could be.

If 2012 is any gauge, one answer might be that Israel hopes to dismantle Hamas entirely, re-installing the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority in Gaza. But there are no signs that any of the Palestinian factions negotiating in Cairo have broken rank, and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has yet to withdraw his support for Hamas’s demands. Meanwhile, Israel continues to hold hostage members of the West Bank-based Palestinian Legislative Council, and last night issued, for the first time since the mid-1980s, “internal deportation” orders to Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar.

By undermining their leadership on two fronts, Netanyahu seems to be picking a fight directly with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In the latter he has now killed more than 2,000, including most recently members of the Dalu family, who lost five women and four children in an Israeli airstrike during the 2012 assault. This time, Israeli jets reportedly unleashed five missiles on the Dalu home, leaving no doubt that Netanyahu has crossed his own Rubicon in Gaza.

A Palestinians child stands in front of a destroyed house in Beit Hanoun following bombardment by Israeli forces, northern Gaza Strip, August 11, 2014. According to OCHA, 16,800 homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or severely damaged leaving 370,000 displaced. (photo: Activestills)

A Palestinians child stands in front of a destroyed house in Beit Hanoun following bombardment by Israeli forces, northern Gaza Strip, August 11, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Yet with Israeli troops once again amassing on the Gaza border, Netanyahu has spent all of the pretenses he manufactured for a ground operation. His military planners have declared the much-ballyhooed tunnels destroyed or incapacitated. His tank commanders have leveled virtually every major population center along Gaza’s northern, eastern and southern borders. And these areas have been all but emptied of their Palestinian inhabitants, leaving more than a quarter of Gaza’s population displaced.

All of this comes at a price – in Palestinian lives and corresponding world condemnation – that Israelis seem not to recognize. As they continue to grant Netanyahu overwhelming support, they fail to question why, for example, his government barred access to Gaza for researchers from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. As evidence of Israeli war crimes mount in Gaza, Netanyahu’s latest escalation will only add to his country’s increasing international pariah status. And that, ultimately, will force Israel’s defeat on both fronts of Netanyahu’s war – with or without Hamas at the negotiating table.

Related:
Israeli airstrikes kill three in Gaza, rockets fired at Israel as ceasefire breaks down
Netanyahu is talking to Hamas. It’s about time
‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’
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Israeli airstrikes kill three in Gaza, rockets fired at Israel as ceasefire breaks down http://972mag.com/israeli-airstrikes-kill-three-in-gaza-rockets-fired-at-israel-as-ceasefire-breaks-down/95756/ http://972mag.com/israeli-airstrikes-kill-three-in-gaza-rockets-fired-at-israel-as-ceasefire-breaks-down/95756/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 00:09:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95756 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.

Destruction in Beit Hanoun following bombardment by Israeli forces, North Gaza Strip, August 11, 2014.  (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Destruction in Beit Hanoun following bombardment by Israeli forces, North Gaza Strip, August 11, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

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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PHOTOS: Tear gas not the only thing connecting Ferguson and Palestine http://972mag.com/photos-same-tear-gas-used-in-ferguson-and-west-bank/95699/ http://972mag.com/photos-same-tear-gas-used-in-ferguson-and-west-bank/95699/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:45:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95699 The tear gas used by the police in Ferguson, Missouri and the Israeli military in the West Bank is only one of several factors that connects the violence against unarmed youth in both communities.

Text and photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled "Made in U.S.A." as Bethlehem-area activists displayed U.S.-made crowd control weapons in Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled “Made in U.S.A.” as Bethlehem-area activists displayed U.S.-made crowd control weapons in Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The New York Times’ Robert Mackey recently tweeted a photo of the tear gas cartridges found on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, where police have been using the weapon against demonstrators angry at the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager. Both the cartridge and the tactics looked very familiar, and for good reason.

A different tweet noted that the same brand of tear gas was used in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. As reported here last December, those shining shell casings, as well as the rubber-ball variety and spent stun grenades made by the same company, had decorated a tree in Bethlehem’s Manger Square at Christmastime as activists gathered those used by the Israeli military less than two kilometers away in Aida Refugee Camp and displayed them for holiday tourists.

A sign hung by activists on a tree in Bethlehem's Manger Square among used tear gas and concussion grenades reads, "This is the USAid to the Palestinians." (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A sign hung by activists on a tree in Bethlehem’s Manger Square among used tear gas and stun grenades reads, “This is the USAid to the Palestinians.” (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

As I wrote at the time:

Most of the crowd control weapons deployed by the Israeli military against Palestinians are part of the Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) product line made by a US company, Combined Systems Inc. (CSI). Pick up a used tear gas cartridge or concussion grenade at any demonstration, and you’re likely to find the initials “CTS” stamped on them somewhere (though the rest of the labeling is typically in Hebrew). But during recent clashes in Aida Camp, Israeli forces have been leaving behind cartridges labeled completely in English. These labels contain complete CTS contact information, including the Pennsylvania mailing address, telephone, and fax numbers. They also bear that proud slogan, “Made in U.S.A.”

A spent tear gas cartridge lies on the ground near Aida Refugee Camp following clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces, Bethlehem, West Bank, November 29, 2013. The cartridge, made by the U.S. company Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) is labeled with full contact information and the company's U.S. address in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A spent tear gas cartridge lies on the ground near Aida Refugee Camp following clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces, Bethlehem, West Bank, November 29, 2013. The cartridge, made by the U.S. company Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) is labeled with full contact information and the company’s U.S. address in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

But aside from the gas choking Ferguson’s residents, there’s another connection: Like many U.S. police officials, St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch received “counter-terrorism” training in Israel. It’s a neat exchange: The U.S. provides the weapons, Israel provides advice on how to use them. As The Washington Post reported in 2005:

They are briefing not only big-city cops but county sheriffs and police chiefs from such diverse locations as Gaithersburg and Knoxville, Tenn. In addition, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with police officials, sheriffs and bomb technicians have been traveling to Israel for week-long lessons on terrorism.

I’m sure they meant “lessons on anti-terrorism.”

The profound security lessons from these trips have manifested in U.S. cities like Washington, DC, where “[then-Police Chief Charles] Ramsey ordered his officers to keep their red and blue roof lights flashing all the time to be more visible — something he picked up when he [and other officials] went on a ride-along with the Jerusalem police two years ago.”

Thousands of marchers clogged the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., in a  protest against Israel's offensive in Gaza, August 2, 2014. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,622 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including 326 children.

Marchers clogged the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., in a protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza, August 2, 2014. Like many U.S. city police departments, D.C.’s has received Israeli training. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

One of the few positive connections resulting from the police violence in Ferguson has been the creation of new solidarity linkages, as those on the receiving end of U.S.-Israeli “security” cooperation offered their own exchange of tactics. As Palestinian-American comedian Amer Zahr writes:

As black Americans filled the streets of Ferguson to decry what they saw as the unjustified killing of one of their young men, they were met by an over-militarized police presence looking to crush them.  Sound familiar?

Their protests were welcomed with tear gas and rubber bullets.  Sound familiar?

Well, it sounds familiar to us, so familiar that many Palestinians took to Twitter to advise their American counterparts in Ferguson on how to deal with such attacks.  We saw tweets like, “Remember to not touch your face when tear-gassed or put water on it.” And, “Always make sure to run against the wind /to keep calm when you’re teargassed, the pain will pass, don’t rub your eyes!” And my personal favorite, “Don’t keep much distance from the police, if you’re close to them they can’t tear gas.”  Yes, we Palestinians are very creative when it comes to anti-anti-protesting. We are professional protestors.

A Palestinian youth with a gas mask grabs a tear gas grenade fired by Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank town of Bethlehem protesting Israeli attacks on Gaza, November 20, 2012.

A Palestinian youth with a gas mask grabs a tear gas grenade fired by Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank town of Bethlehem protesting Israeli attacks on Gaza, November 20, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Related:
PHOTOS: This tear gas brought to you by the U.S.A.
The West Bank may be on the verge of exploding

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