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Life in Gaza: Letter from a Palestinian woman

My friend Oded Adomi Leshem from Tel Aviv sent me an email he received from a friend of his in Gaza. She writes about what she is going through and what she does when missiles hit her neighborhood. She puts a human face on the suffering of people in Gaza. After all, it is ignorant to think this is a war affecting the IDF or Hamas. Civilians are paying the highest price in this war. Some Israelis are describing it as though it were the First World War, the  so-called “war to end all wars.” But just as the 1914-18 war led inexorably to the 1939-45 conflagration, so this military clash will only cause more resentment and suffering that will perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Here is the letter from Gaza:

Thanks for your nice message. We are alright so far, and I truly hope your family is well and safe.

The situation here is really terrible and it’s getting worse day after day, and I’m sure the same applies in Israel. Our leaders don’t care about us. They are playing with our lives and the ordinary people of both sides are the ones who always lose. This has to stop!!

This morning, the Israeli F16 military jets hit our area twice. The first time, they hit the building of the council of ministers with 5 huge missiles just a few homes away from our home. Our home was shaking like an earthquake and our windows broke and shattered everywhere, and I felt the missiles inside our home. It was very scary. Of course serious damages happened to all surrounding buildings in the area.

The first time, the Israeli F16 military jets hit Palestine stadium, which is located in the neighborhood next to my neighborhood, with 4 huge missiles, and caused some damages to my home as well. I heard the huge explosions and saw the flames and it was very terrifying. We see and feel death very close with each bombing. Israel is bombing everywhere in Gaza all the time by air, sea and land. Nowhere to hide … Nowhere is safe … We don’t have shelters … We just stay at home so all of us can die at once if a missile would strike our home.

We are still recovering from the trauma of the first war [Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 – editor]. How will we recover from this? Also the Israeli army (IDF) is sending text messages to us on mobile phones in Gaza with a warning in Arabic: “The next phase is on the way.” They are trying to intimidate us like what happened in the first Gaza war four years ago.This is insane … How much is too much? … I hope this madness will stop as quickly as possible.

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    1. JKNoReally

      Its not a cycle of violence – with or without this war, Hamas would continue harassing Israel with rockets because its struggling to delegitimize and reconquer Israel, not respond to Israel’s attacks on its operatives. Israelis would be happy to forget about Gaza if they knew that Gaza would also leave Israel alone. Please let’s stop pretending we don’t have the perspective to see beyond immediate events.

      Reply to Comment
      • ???

        wow !!! so nice
        please confirm you are human !
        obviously you are not, you blame them for sending a rocket.
        You are in complete denial , or trying to accept the guilt feelings. What happened in gaza is a massacre by the Israeli army, once after the other, noway to deny that, no way to discuss , its a fact. How could you even have the bravory to say something like that after reading that letter. The woman stupidly think, the situation is also bad in Israel, you know very well, if you’ve ever been to Israel, that the situation have never reached 0.001! as bad as this woman is describing !
        You are a monster , and its sad !! for all humanity !!! because without you and people alike, the world would have been a better place.
        Oh yea , we slaughtered their children, we demolished their houses, robeed every dear to their heart, imprisoned their kids, loved ones , and shot in the head many and many without any question, and then you wonder why they want to shoot a rocket at you. What do you reccon smart person? the solution is to kill them all !! horaaay, ethnic cleansing , wow very merciful, smart and humanitarian !!
        Israelis kill because Israelis can, not becasue they are threatened.
        Go educate yourself, listen to some news , from more than one channel, go visit places, learn how to speak, and listen to poeple …and maybe one day you will have the joy of being able to think and maybe understand !

        Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      (1) A historical correction-you state “But just as the 1914-18 war led inexorably to the 1939-45 conflagration, so this military clash will only cause more resentment and suffering that will perpetuate the cycle of violence.”
      But you omitted the fact that the greater violence of the 1939-1945 war and the complete defeat of Germany (and Japan, for that matter) led to an END to the cycle of violence in central and western Europe. Why? Because the Germans finally learned the lesson they failed to learn in 1918.

      (2) Does the lady in Gaza perceive the rather odd contradiction of feeling like a victim and at the same time having her side firing rockets indiscriminately into Israeli population centers?

      Reply to Comment
      • “But you omitted the fact that the greater violence of the 1939-1945 war and the complete defeat of Germany (and Japan, for that matter) led to an END to the cycle of violence in central and western Europe. Why? Because the Germans finally learned the lesson they failed to learn in 1918.” : No, idiot, because the United States rebuilt Germany through the Marshal Plan. It was not left to starve and struggle on its own.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          You don’t think that having all their cities bombed flat made any impression on them? German territory wasn’t touched in the First World War and they apparently didn’t understand what total war really means. It took another round to get the message through. And what about Japan? They were on the winning side in World War I so you can’t use the “unfair Versailles Treaty” as a excuse for their aggression later.

          Reply to Comment
          • Both Japan and Germany were not ostracized, but rather helped to rebuild after the war. You have ostracized Gaza. But now you tell me why: you want it smashed to the ground. Let us praise the Unnamable.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            I think both of you are right.

            Germany was NOT restored while the naziis remained in power however once elected, nor was Japan while the emperor remained in power.

            But, Greg’s point that a carrot must accompany a stick to succeed is more accurate.

            While Israel occupied the West Bank, it attempted a form of Marshall Plan, but in an opportunistic way that allowed the settlement enterprise to place undeniably abusive “facts on the ground”.

            The purpose of its Marshall Plan was not to enhance the prospect of a revived independent sovereignty, but to facilitate the annexation (ignoring that the annexation would result in an Arab 45% minority).

            There really isn’t a parallel proposed.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Laurent Szyster

      Dear Anonymous Woman in Gaza,

      Sure, your leaders don’t care about your lives. On the contrary, members of the Israeli government do care about the people that elected them in power.

      That’s probably your leaders don’t want to organize another democratic election in Gaza.

      The other difference between you and your fried Oded Adomi Leshem, is that he can be named but you cannot, for the obvious reason that you might well get shot for “spying” by Hamas’ thugs.

      You want this madness to stop ?

      Get rid of your mad leaders.

      Reply to Comment
    4. I am invariably astonished by the vicious lack of compassion displayed by certain regular commenters on this site. A woman under constant bombardment lives in fear that she and her children will be killed at any moment, but she still is able to differentiate between the soldiers that shoot at her and her Israeli friend Oded. And your responses are to jeer at her suffering. How shocking and shameful.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl


        Those first three comments make me ashamed to be human. I’m glad I don’t wake up as either of those three.

        Reply to Comment
        • JKNoReally

          Indeed, it must be comfortable for you to wake up and not attempt to take moral positions that require thinking carefully about the real world, which is, after all, quite complex.

          Reply to Comment
      • Camilla A.

        Very well put Lisa. I couldn’t agree more. I’m appalled, too.

        Reply to Comment
      • JKNoReally

        Lisa – Please spare us. You know very well that this woman’s suffering, leveraged by Aziz to support the idea that Israel and Hamas are trapped in a “cycle of violence”, (and not Hamas’ unilateral, irredentist war against Israel) is a political argument and not a humanitarian one. Nobody reading or listening to English-language media needs help finding coverage of Gaza’s suffering. Perhaps a more ignorant person could be excused for misunderstanding, but you obviously understand the dynamics of this conflict well enough to appreciate how dishonest it is to ignore the partiality of Aziz’s framing here.

        Reply to Comment
      • JKNoReally

        I jeer at nothing and nobody – I take issue with Aziz’s political use of this woman’s suffering (recycling the tired “cycle of violence” trope). Your deliberately conflating political and humanitarian concerns, and feigning moral outrage at those would draw this very relevant distinction, is a much bigger problem than those who refuse to play into Hamas’ cynical warmongering.

        Reply to Comment
        • Hamas came into existence in 1987 and there was enough violence being inflicted on people in Gaza before then. In trying to compartmentalise ‘political’ and ‘humanitarian’ concerns (as though the humanitarian outreach of Hamas wasn’t a huge part of why they attracted votes, as though no Hamas recruit has ever experienced violence used against him prior to his Hamas involvement) you are just trying to stash the human suffering somewhere you don’t have to deal with it. This woman’s suffering is politically relevant because she is revealing the extent and the nature of the bombing campaign. Are you going to back it? That is a political as well as ethical question, because it will have repercussions. XYZ seems to cherish the fond hope that if only enough people are slaughtered, they will be ‘taught a lesson’ and abandon violent resistance, so his political calculation is that their suffering is worth it. Aziz’s political calculation is that the bombings will increase support for the armed resistance, because of the humanitarian cost, and so the bombings are not worth it. These issues are not detachable.

          However, the main point of the article doesn’t seem to be to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of military violence, but to show the price that ordinary people pay for it. In light of that, your first comment does come across as jeering, especially with the little barb about ‘pretending’ not to see the wider perspective – as though a story like this has nothing to contribute to that perspective, as though Aziz must be being manipulative somehow.

          Reply to Comment
          • JKNoReally

            Yes, Aziz is using this woman’s story to emotionally manipulate his readers into believing that bombing Gaza will make the people there more violent than they otherwise would be, which is NONSENSE. Lisa is trying to emotionally manipulate readers into feeling guilty for questioning Aziz’s political bias. So yeah, there is plenty of manipulation going on.

            Reply to Comment
          • Do yourself a favore and watch the video.
            There aren’t many of those because In Arab countries people are killed for this. In Israel however, about half of the population is supporting palestinians and almost ignoring terror consequences just in the name of peace. We r not afraid to say so, but we do feel sometimes that there’s no one to talk to.
            By the end of the day, these people chose Hamas to lead them, it’s like declaring WAR.

            Reply to Comment
          • Karin

            Here’s the video (for some reason was cut out)


            And here is another one:


            Reply to Comment
      • AJM

        I completely agree with Lisa.

        These comments do help to clarify why Bibi and Barak can hope to benefit from Pillar of Cloud in the next Israeli elections.

        Reply to Comment
        • Karin

          As much as I hate it, Bibi won the elections long before this cycle. Barak won’t even get into the kneset next time, nobody wants him. You really don’t know what you’re talking about.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Ken Kelso

      No Trial for these people.
      For all we know they might have been people who criticized Hamas for using civilians as human shields.
      Where is the Outrage by Aziz Doesn’t he care about Gazan civilians?
      Ooops, i guess this dont fit his propaganda.
      Its on Ynet’s site.

      Gaza gunmen kill 6 alleged collaborators
      For second time since start of Israeli operation, men suspected of collaborating with Israel shot publicly in Gaza
      Elior Levy

      Palestinian gunmen shot dead six alleged collaborators in the Gaza Strip who “were caught red-handed,” according to a security source quoted by Hamas’ Aqsa radio on Tuesday.

      “They possessed hi-tech equipment and filming equipment to take footage of positions,” it said.

      The Hamas radio said the men, who were suspected of working for Israel, were shot. It did not elaborate.

      Gunmen chained the body of one of the alleged collaborators to a motorcycle and dragged it throughout the main streets of Gaza City.

      Execution in Gaza (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

      This was the second time collaborators were reportedly killed in Gaza since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense.

      Palestinian and foreign officials reported Friday that a man, who was killed by gunmen in Gaza, had a banner tied to his neck accusing him in collaborating with Israel and causing the death of 15 Palestinian officials.

      Shot collaborator’s body in Gaza street (Photo: Reuters)

      A taxi driver who witnessed the shooting told the New York Times that two gunmen had dragged the alleged collaborator out from a car in the middle of a Gaza neighborhood. “His hands were tied behind his back… they shot his head three times, but he was still alive. Then they turned him on his back and shot him again.”

      The eyewitness also told the New York Times that shortly after the shooting, some 100 men surrounded the man and covered his head with plastic bags. “There were children on the street; they should have done it somewhere further away.”

      Collaborator’s body dragged on Gaza street (Photo: Reuters)

      The Palestinian news agency reported that since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, the government has conducted 14 official executions. In September of 2012 a Gaza court sentenced to death a man who was convicted in collaborating with Israel.

      Sarah B , U.S.A. / Israel (11.20.12)
      pathetic and cruel
      mike north , karmiel israel (11.20.12)
      Hamas brutality
      oigevalt , Toronto (11.20.12)
      If this is what they do to their own…
      Avi , Tel aviv (11.20.12)
      Gaza gunmen kill 6 alleged collaborators
      eli , usa (11.20.12)
      volk , Israel (11.20.12)
      humor me …
      chaya , central holy land (11.20.12)
      READ THIS IF YOU ARE A Muslium
      Michael , Canada (11.20.12)
      Horrible people!
      Susie , Scotland (11.20.12)

      Reply to Comment
    6. XYZ

      What would you say to the proposition that we should show the same amount of compassion, no more or no less, than the Palestinians show for us? Wars are not conflicts between individuals, they are struggles between nation groups. HAMAS says it is at war with Israel, war to the death as they make quite clear. That is what defines the nature of the conflict, not how individuals feel about each other. Unfortunately, that is the way the world works.

      Reply to Comment
      • A woman has written about her experiences of air strikes. You begin with a pointed statement about how she ‘*feels* like a victim’, as though this whole thing is really a clever sleight of hand staged by David Blaine, and she is just hallucinating flames engulfing the local football stadium, damage to her home, and fear that she and her family might be killed any minute. Next you announce that her experience doesn’t matter, you don’t want to talk about Palestinian individuals, they don’t count, you want to talk about Hamas.

        Last night a close friend in Gaza had electricity and was able to contact me. Partway through we talked about the army:

        they [bombing victims] must have been loved and now they’re lost .. Imagine the loss
        Too much to grasp and that’s why I’m not even writing
        because I’m too angry

        Speaking out is important.
        But sometimes so’s silence.
        Confused how?

        The relevance of everything that is going on
        how violent things could get and should get
        the resistance and how influential or not
        all those questions
        and I look terrible
        I haven’t combed my hair for a couple of days

        I expect you look like a person who is living with rapid aerial bombardments.
        They aren’t good for the appearance. 😛
        I read your message from before, and it’s made me think.
        They’re human, the men in those F16s. That’s why we get so furious and why it’s confusing.
        Because if they were monsters, or aliens, or some other kind of creature, it would be easier to bear what they’re doing.
        But the fact that maybe they have something in common with us makes it so much worse.

        might be true

        Like the people they’ve killed today, they have people who love them.
        I love my brother.
        I’m not proud that he is a soldier. I wish he had a job that would make me proud of him.
        Instead I have to be ashamed of what he does.
        But I love him. He’s a great guy.
        There are civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq who want him to die and I can’t blame them for feeling that way.

        Those in Iraq don’t see him the way you do
        The might not even see him at all
        except as a man in a suit who’s there to kill them

        I know, and this is the problem.
        We don’t see each other.
        Those Israelis who are supporting the bombing – they don’t see you.

        and that’s how we see the Israeli soldiers as well
        and you cannot really blame me for that

        It is like Levinas writes, the importance of the face.

        They do not

        (And I don’t blame you one bit.)

        but how much can we get close to see
        and even after we see
        do we have the courage to challenge for the sake of morality
        to challenge power

        I won’t paste more from the chatlog as the discussion got personal, but I read your latest comments here in the light of it. Based on what you’ve said here, you do not deserve one iota of the compassion she is trying to show to you, and to the armed men whose killing spree you support. You do not deserve what this is costing her. You do not deserve it, but she gives it anyway. Saying that violence is the business of ‘nation groups’ is just a way of letting yourself off the hook when it comes to facing the pain of people like her, like the woman who wrote this letter to her Israeli friend – nothing to do with me, not my concern, now let me go back to talking about how it’s necessary and how they’ve got to be taught a lesson. It’s a miserable cheap cop-out.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          This time, I must confess I did not express myself very well. I didn’t mean to say that she isn’t a victim, what I meant to say is that the Palestinians, through their official representatives, portray themselves as victims, as a group, when at the same time they are trying to wipe out our civilian population.

          Reply to Comment
    7. The Trespasser

      Compassion is not capable of stopping missiles and suicide bombers.

      Reply to Comment
      • This is far from clear. Compassion might alter the social networks which support and produce bombers or those firing missiles; they might decay as members leave them for other possibilities. Trying to keep Gaza “near starvation” as US Wikileaked cables document was a form of retribution which cannot but have played into the hands of the very networks you abhor. The siege must be lifted for any hope of breaking this cycle.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          That is an interesting theory. Do you have any practical examples to demonstrate compassion overcoming a well-funded network of highly ideological individuals without first entirely demolishing their infrastructure?

          Reply to Comment
          • El Salvador. Northern Ireland.

            But no example matters to you. Smash to the ground. For the good of the race. And the loss of children.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Sure Mr. Compassion. Northern Ireland and El Salvador were solved with ‘compassion’ and not by one side internalizing that it can’t achieve its political objectives with military means. Good job. You get a cookie.

            Reply to Comment
          • No, the social networks they were connected to began to alter. Please note that one rebel commander in El Salvador years later become its President. The world will not always fit the bare categories you enforce.

            You’ve let this recent flare up turn your responses ugly. Hate as you will–I am done with it.

            Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          By your theory all that Europeans and Soviets had to do in 1939 is to show some compassion to attacking German troops.

          You see, violence could only be stopped if violating party agrees to stop it voluntarily or is forced by violated party.

          Palestinian Arabs had started this circle of violence more than 100 years ago, so…

          Reply to Comment
      • sh

        It is, you know. But so far, none of our governments have ever shown it to the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          So by your standards withdrawal from occupied territories and offers of statehood are not displays of compassion.

          I see. You won’t be satisfied by anything lesser than dismantling of State of Israel.
          Well, keep on dreaming.

          Truly, there are no worse enemy to Palestinians than “Progressives”

          Reply to Comment
          • sh

            You forgot the most important word in the first part of your sentence: unilateral. And in the second part of your sentence you talk about an offer of statehood as though it was ours to grant to the Palestinians. 😎 forgive us all our trespassers!

            Reply to Comment
    8. Liora

      I hope this madness stops too. I pray for the wellbeing of people on both sides of the wire. May peace come soon

      Reply to Comment
    9. “Our leaders don’t care about us. They are playing with our lives and the ordinary people of both sides are the ones who always lose. This has to stop!!”
      “Nowhere to hide … Nowhere is safe … We don’t have shelters … We just stay at home so all of us can die at once if a missile would strike our home.”
      Coupling these with those of Vicky, above, an alternative platform solely for such voices might be useful. There is a kind of role model: The Australian M.D. Helen Caldicott who, during the Cold War, argued against the prospect of nuclear war, solely for children of the world, holding both the US and USSR to task. No one is going to save things with such a platform, but an alternatie place to stand might be created–useful in the future. Instead of just facing those committed to violence, create a platform where plural you can refine your position, help each other realize you are not alone, and maybe provide thought for the future. Link it to +972 through your comments (or articles?). Just don’t let your words die here in brief notice.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Indeed. They should create yet another blog written by well meaning Arabs and Jews bemoaning how no one is listening to them. This is revolutionary out of the box thinking on your part.

        Sorry.. That was just too easy.

        Reply to Comment
        • Why are you angry that not all people will be as you, and that these may some day effectuate the world?

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Angry? No. I think your proposal for changing the world through blogging is brilliant. It has never been tried before and is sure to work this time. I for one am already on the fence about the possibility that all Hamas wants is a really big hug. A post or two on the issue might just push me over.

            Reply to Comment
          • The issue was young women trying to find another way in their, not your, world. Nothing was said of changing the world. But I, for one, know what it means to want to reach out for a new way of thought, to construct something I can live by, with.

            But you need to stamp out speech not correct. Perhaps this is your part in the war industry. Only the Voice matters; smash all else in laughter.

            Reply to Comment
    10. Kolumn9

      There are no countries, no nations, no peoples, only individuals and we must see the world only as individuals alone with their worries and concerns. And what of those individuals that don’t agree and see the world as one of nations, groups, religions, regions, etc? We shall pretend they don’t exist and we can wish them out of existence while being constantly confused by the world as it is.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        “There are no countries, no nations, no peoples, only individuals and we must see the world only as individuals alone with their worries and concerns.”
        I take it this is your personal portrait of those who present humanitarian arguments for moving towards a peaceful settlement here. You haven’t understood a thing. People are grouped by many factors outside nation, religion and region. You mention the word groups too, but without explaining what you mean by it. Shared interests, tastes, moralities, joys, sorrows and experiences are some of the unifying factors that exceed the confines of nation, religion and region.

        At a very basic level, having been defenceless refugees with no rights could predispose a group to unite and strive to eliminate some of that condition’s more horrifying consequences on others once they are safe and compensated. And even if other considerations trump that possibility, you would at least expect them not to impose the same condition on defenceless others. But it doesn’t, we’re proof of that. Those from different religions, regions and nations who are struggling with that conundrum happen to be a group too.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          The point is that the ‘humanitarian’ argument is blind to context and hides from complexity while feeding on a self-righteous empathy with individuals combined with a rage at an inexplicably harsh world.

          At a very basic level you have unrealistic expectations driven by assigning to a group a historical narrative that isn’t largely accepted within that group which leads you to a very strange belief in a higher moral standard for the same group compared to the rest of humanity. In other words, you are going to be permanently disappointed and it is entirely your own fault in holding unrealistic expectations.

          Reply to Comment
          • You are in my group and I will tell you want to do. YHWH transcendent.

            Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          This is the old “how can people who have suffered so much cause suffering to others?” argument. Pope Paul VI tried that one on Prime Minister Golda Meir. She was justifiably upset with that remark.
          The early Christians were persecuted by the Romans and thrown to the lions. How can they cause suffering to others?
          The blacks who suffered so much under Apartheid in South Africa have one of the highest murder and violence rates in the world. How can people who suffered so much cause suffering to others?
          The Syrians claim they suffered under French colonial rule. How can the cause suffering to others and each other?
          Many Palestinians claim they have suffered more than anyone else in history (Abbas himself said the creation of Israel was the “greatest crime in history”). How can they cause suffering to other people (like making suicide bombers and firing missiles indiscrimately into populated Israel centers)?

          Jews have NO RESPONSIBILITY to be “better” than anyone else. I just find it bizarre that the Gazans are revelling in victimhood while they are trying to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.
          How stupid do they think the world community is?

          Finally, as I have posted here before, the argument you have given here is typical of the secular Jewish “progressive”. They believe the Jews are a divinely chosen people whose heavenly-mandated mission is to teach the world there is no Deity and the Jews are no different than anyone else.

          Reply to Comment
          • “I just find it bizarre that the Gazans are revelling in victimhood while they are trying to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.”
            If that’s true they’re doing a pretty lousy job.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            I’m sure that democratically elected government of Gaza does what it’s best for the people.

            Obviously, they (the government) have some kind of plan to crush the Zionist aggressor and with help of simple Gazans they will certainly do it. Somehow.

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            Secular? I’m not secular. Have never self-defined as progressive either, am not even sure what it means. Nor do I think we are divinely chosen to be better than anyone else – not least because the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. I’ll wager that Bibi, Ben Gurion, Theodor Herzl doesn’t/didn’t believe we were divinely chosen. But one thing’s certain. Without the cooperation of Jews who believe they were divinely chosen to enter into a covenant with God (without necessarily being better than anyone else), no-one would ever have heard of them.

            Reply to Comment
    11. Richard Witty

      Impotence of sensitivity, and the unintended complicity of dissent with Hamas violent agenda.

      Today “Gaza’s ruling Hamas will not stop arming itself because only a strong arsenal, not negotiations, can extract concessions from Israel, the No. 2 in the Islamic militant group told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

      The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, just three days after the worst bout of Israel-Hamas fighting in four years, signaled trouble ahead for Egyptian-brokered talks between the hostile neighbors on a new border deal.”

      Reply to Comment
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