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President Rivlin & PM Netanyahu on Israeli citizens being held in Gaza

Avraham Mengistu, 29, of Ashkelon has been missing since September 2014 after crossing into Gaza, presumed being held by Hamas. A second Israeli citizen, a Bedouin resident of the south, is also reported missing in Gaza.

President Reuven Rivlin issued the following statement on July 9, 2015:

"This is a painful situation which I, together with the relevant officials at the President's Office, have been following closely since it began.

I am in contact with the Mengistu family and I know that all the relevant authorities have been working tirelessly, and monitoring the issue closely, from the moment Avraham crossed over the fence. This is a humanitarian issue, and we expect those holding him to behave accordingly and return him in good health. According to the information which has arisen, Mengistu is being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. We will continue to make every effort in order to bring an end to this incident, as soon as possible."

PM Netanyahu on two Israelis who crossed into Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement :

"We are working to return the two Israelis who crossed the fence into Gaza. We hold Hamas responsible for their welfare. I have appointed a representative to coordinate all activity on the issue and to be in contact with the families. Yesterday I spoke with the parents and siblings of Avraham Mengistu and I told them that from as soon as the incident became known we have spared no effort to return him to Israel. We agreed to meet soon. I expect the international community, which expresses its concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, to issue a clear call for these citizens to be released and to see to their return."

PM Netanyahu at US Independence Day celebrations

The Middle East is imploding all around us. The forces of militant Islam are rushing to fill the void. Yet in this turbulent and violent Middle East, Israel stands out as a beacon of freedom and human rights, an island of democracy in a sea of despotism.

Following is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address at US Independence Day celebrations at US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro's residence in Herzliya:

Sara and I are delighted to be with all of you. This is a great day because on the 4th of July, all Israelis unite with our American brothers and sisters. It's our celebration too. That's because the history of our two countries is remarkably intertwined. The Founding Fathers of America were inspired by the Bible, and specifically by the Book of the Exodus, by the dream of building freedom in a new Promised Land. And as you stand in the Chamber of the American Congress, you see right across you the image of one man - Moses, with a quote from the Bible.

And since the establishment of the United States, that's two and a half centuries, the vision of justice and the vision of peace espoused by the Prophets of Israel served as a guiding light for Americans from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King to many others seeking to form a more perfect union.

But just as our heritage inspired America, America inspired us. If you read the Founding Fathers of Zionism, you see how powerful and inspirational the American Revolution was - the ideas of freedom and liberty. They reverberated everywhere for people seeking liberty, but they reverberated powerfully for the Zionist movement and the ideas of reestablishing our land, our promise, our justice here.

Zionism has always been about freedom, about national freedom, the Jewish people returning to our ancestral homeland to rebuild our one and only sovereign state. But it's also been about personal freedom. We built the State of Israel on the same democratic foundations upon which the United States was built.

And what a remarkable foundation it's proven to be.

The Middle East is plagued by tyranny. Majorities are oppressed. Minorities are persecuted. Women are subjugated. Gays are lynched. The press, if there is any, is muzzled.

Yet in this turbulent and violent Middle East, Israel stands out as a beacon of freedom and human rights, with unfailing constancy, an island of democracy in a sea of despotism.

The Middle East is imploding all around us. States that have existed for a century are disintegrating. The forces of militant Islam are rushing to fill the void, the militant Sunnis led by ISIS, the militant Shiites led by Iran.

Iran conducts a campaign of aggression in the region and terrorism worldwide. It seeks to build nuclear weapons to advance its mission to export the Islamic revolution, so they say, around the globe. For the mullahs that rule Tehran, Israel is the small Satan and America is the great Satan. They say, Dan, we are you and you are us. And you know something? On this, they are absolutely right. We stand with America. America stands with us.

Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, Iran's worldwide campaign of terrorism and aggression must be stopped. So too must the campaign of ISIS, whose savagery is now sweeping the Middle East. We ourselves have felt the reverberations of Islamist terrorism in the last few days. Today I visited the hospital of those Israelis wounded - remarkable heroism shown by a young woman and by a young man. And we grieve for the loss of a brilliant, brilliant young Malachi. We suffer those pains and we see that that terrorism is not only exploding within our own country. We see ISIS at the gates - across the border in the Golan, across the border in Egypt. We send our condolences to the government and people of Egypt for the fallen Egyptians slain by ISIS terror.

We must stand up to all the forces of militant Islam, those led by Iran, those led by ISIS. We should not strengthen one or the other. We should weaken both of them. And as we do this, we will continue our quest for a durable and secure peace with the Palestinians, mindful that we must not let militant Islam gain another foothold.

My friends,

The values we share are at the heart of the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. Dan, we are family. Let me translate. We are mishpucha [family]. And we are partners.

I take this opportunity to once again express my appreciation to President Obama, the United States Congress and the people of America. I want to thank them for their continual support of the State of Israel. Across the length and breadth of the United States, Americans of all stripes stand with the Jewish state. I've said it before but I'll say it again tonight: Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel.

On this day that celebrates freedom both of us know this: Neither one of us can take life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for granted. Americans and Israelis have paid a high price to protect these sacred principles. We are stronger when we face our great challenges together.

And today the bells of freedom ring across America. They ring loud in Israel too. May we always cherish our freedom. May we always cherish our friendship.

On behalf of all Israelis, I wish all Americans a happy 4th of July. God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America.

PM Netanyahu speaks with US Secretary Kerry

PM Netanyahu conveyed his appreciation to President Barack Obama and the Secretary for the efforts of the American team at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke over the weekend with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to convey his appreciation to President Barack Obama and to the Secretary for the position taken by the United States and for the efforts of the American team at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York.

The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East.

Israel appreciates as well the decision of the UK and Canada to reject the coordinated diplomatic effort against Israel at the conference.

Israel has consistently believed that a gradual approach to arms control and regional security can be achieved through confidence building measures and a direct dialogue with states in the Middle East. Israel also continues to believe that peace, mutual recognition and reconciliation are essential precursors to serious progress on arms control. All Israelis hope for a day when the region will enjoy peace and no one will be threatened by weapons of mass destruction or other dangerous weapons.

PM Netanyahu meets with German Defense Minister Dr. Ursula von der Leyen

We view Iran's quest for empire coupled with its quest for nuclear weapons as the greatest challenge to global security. We hope this can be prevented, but a better deal than the one proposed in Lausanne is required. I believe this is important for our common future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with German Defense Minister Dr. Ursula von der Leyen. Following is an excerpt from his remarks at the start of their meeting:
"The challenges to us keep changing. We've made peace with two of our Arab neighbors, but there are new forces in the region. They are threatening not only us but also threatening of course our Arab neighbors with whom we've made peace.
This creates the opportunity to make other alliances with other Arab states, but at the same time, we have a great threat emanating from militant Islam, both from militant Sunnis in the form of ISIS and al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, but the greatest threat that we see and I think that our neighbors see as well is the threat that emanates from the imperial and theological ambitions of the Ayatollah regime in Iran. They are seeking, as you know, to develop a capability to develop nuclear weapons. They are engaged in a campaign of conquest and subversion throughout the Middle East, now in Yemen, around Israel's borders in Lebanon, not very far from our border in the Golan, in Gaza.
We view the greatest challenge to the security of the Middle East, of Israel and of the world Iran's quest for empire coupled with its quest for nuclear weapons. We hope that this can be prevented, preferably by diplomatic means. We think a better deal is required than the one that is proposed in Lausanne, and I believe that this is important for our common future and our common security."

President Rivlin accedes to PM Netanyahu's request for extension to form new government

​President Rivlin acceded to the request and extended the prime minister an additional 14 days to form the new government, in accordance with Article 8 of Basic Law: The

President Reuven Rivlin, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and – pursuant to Article 8 of Basic Law: The Government – acceded to the latter's request that he be granted an additional 14 days in which to form a government.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "Mr. President, I have come this morning to request an extension so that I may complete the work of forming a government. We have made progress and are on the way to forming a government. However, I require additional time in order for the government to be stable and so that we might reach agreement on important issues that will aid us in meeting the challenges facing the State of Israel."
President Rivlin said, "Mr. Prime Minister, there being no change in the circumstances regarding the recommendation according to which I assigned the responsibility to you, and in the wake of your updating me about your ability to complete the work of forming a government within the allotted time, I hereby give you an extension of 14 days in order to complete the formation of a government. The President's consideration is not limited in giving an extension but [the total period] cannot be longer than the 42 days provided by law. I wish you success in your work. The entire people of Israel hope that a government will be established; indeed, a transition government has not received the confidence of the Knesset and is viewed by the public as needing to be dealt with. I hope that in the coming days you will succeed in forming a stable government for the State of Israel."

Iran framework: PM Netanyahu after cabinet meeting

The cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal. he deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop R&D on Iran's advanced centrifuges.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement this afternoon:

"I just came from a meeting of the Israeli cabinet. We discussed the proposed framework for a deal with Iran. The cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal. This deal would pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the State of Israel.

The deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop R&D on Iran's advanced centrifuges. On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran's illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place.

The deal would lift sanctions almost immediately and this at the very time that Iran is stepping up its aggression and terror in the region and beyond the region. In a few years, the deal would remove the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, enabling Iran to have a massive enrichment capacity that it could use to produce many nuclear bombs within a matter of months.

The deal would greatly bolster Iran's economy. It would give Iran thereby tremendous means to propel its aggression and terrorism throughout the Middle East. Such a deal does not block Iran's path to the bomb. Such a deal paves Iran's path to the bomb. And it might very well spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war.

Now, some say that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That's not true. There is a third alternative - standing firm, increasing the pressure on Iran until a good deal is achieved.

And finally let me say one more thing.

Iran is a regime that openly calls for Israel's destruction and openly and actively works towards that end. Just two days ago, in the midst of the negotiations in Lausanne, the commander of the Basij security forces in Iran said this: "The destruction of Israel is non-negotiable."

Well, I want to make clear to all. The survival of Israel is non-negotiable. Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period.
In addition, Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist. Thank you."

PM Netanyahu speaks with President Obama

A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel. It would legitimize Iran's nuclear program, bolster Iran's economy, and increase Iran's aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to President Obama and expressed Israel's strong opposition to the framework agreement with Iran which poses a grave danger to Israel, the region and the world.

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

"A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.

Just two days ago, Iran said that 'The destruction of Israel is non-negotiable,' and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel.

This deal would legitimize Iran's nuclear program, bolster Iran's economy, and increase Iran's aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond. Such a deal would not block Iran's path to the bomb. It would pave it. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.

The alternative is standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a better deal is achieved."

Statements by PM Netanyahu on Iran talks

The concessions offered to Iran in Lausanne would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world. Now is the time for the international community to insist on a better deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement:

"The agreement being formulated in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price for aggression and on the contrary - that Iran's aggression is to be rewarded. The moderate and responsible countries in the region, especially Israel and also many other countries, will be the first to be hurt by this agreement.

One cannot understand that when forces supported by Iran continue to conquer more ground in Yemen, in Lausanne they are closing their eyes to this aggression. But we are not closing our eyes and we will continue to act against every threat in every generation, certainly in this generation."

Speaking at the opening session of the 20th Knesset (March 31), Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"The greatest threat to our security and to our future was and remains Iran's effort to arm itself with nuclear weapons. The agreement being formulated in Lausanne paves the way to this outcome. It seems that it will leave in Iran's possession underground installations, the nuclear reactor at Arak and advanced centrifuges, the same things that only a few months ago we were told - and rightly so - were not essential to a nuclear program designed for peaceful purposes.

Iran's breakout time for achieving fissile material for nuclear bombs will not be measured in years, as was said at the outset; in our assessment the time has been reduced to less than a year, probably much less. And all of this is before taking into account the ballistic missiles that Iran is continuing to manufacture, the ongoing development of advanced centrifuges, Iran's obdurate refusal to reveal to the IAEA its activities to develop nuclear weapons and, I add, Iran's campaign of conquest and terrorism - which is open to all, everyone sees it, before our very eyes - from the Golan Heights to Yemen, from Iraq to Gaza and so many other places."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement (Wednesday, 1 April 2015):

"Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared and I quote: 'Israel's destruction is non-negotiable', but evidently giving Iran's murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable. This is unconscionable.

I agree with those who have said that Iran's claim that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes doesn't square with Iran's insistence on keeping underground nuclear facilities, advanced centrifuges and a heavy water reactor. Nor does it square with Iran's insistence on developing ICBMs and its refusal to come clean with the IAEA on its past weaponization efforts. At the same time, Iran is accelerating its campaign of terror, subjugation and conquest throughout the region, most recently in Yemen.

The concessions offered to Iran in Lausanne would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world. Now is the time for the international community to insist on a better deal. A better deal would significantly roll back Iran's nuclear infrastructure. A better deal would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to a change in Iran's behavior. Iran must stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world and stop its threats to annihilate Israel. That should be non-negotiable and that's the deal that the world powers must insist upon."

Alex Brummer - Netanyahu's re-election: A triumph of tenacity

WJC, Benjamin Netanyahu’s democratic election to a record fourth term as Israeli prime minister last week - in a region bereft of free elections - was, in one sense, a triumph of tenacity.

He may be regarded by critics in Washington and other Western capitals as a divisive figure who will damage the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But on a political level, it is hard not to admire his fierce rhetorical skills in defense of the Jewish state, and his ability to swing his way one of the most disputative and well-educated electorates in the world.

Aggressive talk on the stump can be a dangerous business, though, when you wield such far-reaching influence. For Israel is at the epicentre of a mighty struggle between faiths which sets it against the Arab nations that surround it. And it is a struggle which has immense global implications thanks to the allies ranged on either side.

For decades, Israel has been a close friend of America, while the Palestinians receive unwavering support from the Islamic leaders of Iran, who in turn were for years implacable enemies of the ‘Great Satan’ across the Atlantic.

Netanyahu may have won an election - but the way he went about it has set the Middle East on a perilous course once more.

Had he enjoyed a clear lead before the vote, he might not have felt it necessary to lurch to the Right. But the opinion polls suggested it might all be over for Netanyahu’s Likud Party. So he sought to frame the election in terms of national security, taking to the international stage in a controversial effort to derail American-led talks which are seeking a rapprochement with Iran (which now finds itself on the same side as the US in the battle against Islamic State).

His opponents in the new centrer-left Zionist Union Party fought on the domestic issues of widening social division, high food prices and the runaway housing market. But while those are all of critical importance to Israelis, Netanyahu has always recognised that when push comes to shove, the safety of a nation will always trump everything else.

No one in the Jewish state ever forgets that Israel is surrounded by unstable dictatorships and warring terrorist and jihadist movements.

Last week, Netanyahu’s tactics - playing on the deep Israeli suspicion of its Iranian and Arab neighbours and the two million Palestinian-Israelis who live in Israel - worked like a charm. It may have been brutally effective, but for many people in the Jewish community, both in Israel and elsewhere, the fears - some would say prejudices - Netanyahu sought to exploit are deeply troubling.

Jews in both the US and Britain fear for the impact of Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the reputation of Israel among the community of nations, and their own ability to defend its actions.

Not only did he insist that Israel would continue building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but he was willing to place the long-held US-Israel relationship at risk by being so aggressive about the need to rein in Iran. And in flatly ruling out the prospect of establishing a Palestinian state, he dismissed the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine problem which is at the core of British and U.S. relations with Israel.

Little wonder that when he results emerged, an exasperated President Obama declined to call Netanyahu to congratulate him. Indeed, a White House spokesman offered only a sharp reference to the ‘divisive rhetoric’ which he employed to help claim victory.

Obama pointedly waited 48 hours before speaking to Netanyahu, with whom he has a fraught relationship. When they did speak, he took the opportunity to directly admonish Netanyahu for the divisive language he used to secure victory.

At the heart of this worrying breakdown of relations between Israel and Washington was the speech Netanyahu gave to a joint session of Congress three weeks ago. Firstly, he breached protocol by accepting an invitation from the Republican Party leadership without clearing the issue with the Democrats in the White House. He then used the forum, which was boycotted by 50 Democratic members of Congress, to try to demolish an outline deal on Iran’s nuclear programme which is being negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland. Kerry hopes Iran will limit its nuclear ambitions in return for a relaxing of crippling Western sanctions.

As well as arguing passionately that any American rapprochement with the Iranians would make the world a less safe place, the Israeli PM also pointed to Tehran’s role in supporting terror movements around the world, from Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, to Hamas in Gaza, and Boka Haram in Africa.

Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice accused Netanyahu of being ‘destructive’, while the President, bunkered in the White House, called him disrespectful.

Obama advisers pointed out that Netanyahu was being particularly bullish towards a friendly leader in the White House who has provided $20 billion of military aid to Israel since taking office. America has also committed to supplying Israel with cutting-edge F15 fighter jets that would maintain its technological edge over all other military forces in the region.

This week, the cooling relationship took a further dramatic turn for the worse when American officials accused Israel of spying on its negotiations with Iran. Furious US officials see the security breach as a clear attempt by the Jerusalem government to undermine American diplomacy.

It has sparked a dangerous stand-off which can only serve to make the Middle East more unstable - and it leaves Israel, a beleaguered state at the best of times, without the unqualified support of its more important ally. Some observers fear that if Netanyahu feels utterly isolated, he will be more likely to launch a reckless attack on a regional enemy, possibly even using nuclear weapons.

What is also deeply troubling administrations in London, Washington and other capitals is the way in which a desperate Netanyahu, in the final days of campaigning, pledged to the electorate that he would not agree to an independent Palestinian state sitting alongside Israel.

In doing so, he disavowed his own 2009 speech in which he committed to the two-state solution which has been a core tenet of Western and Israeli foreign policy since accords were signed in 1994 by the Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Though David Cameron did ring Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election win, there is deep disquiet in the British diplomatic community over such provocative language. Speaking to the weekly Jewish News, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there was international concern over ‘what looks and feels like deliberate attempt to sabotage the two-state solution’.

Britain was fully ready to back an initiative known as ‘Kerry 2’ (named after the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) to get direct talks with the Palestinians started again as soon as whoever was elected in Israel had stitched together a durable coalition. Now, that hope seems damned to fail.
In short, Benjamin Netanyahu has scrapped his way to victory by risking Israel’s crucial relationship with America, and now threatens to set the Middle East peace process back by years.

The tone of the language he used will be disturbing to Israel’s friends around the world. Yet those friends might also remember that it was another Likud prime minister, the late Menachem Begin, who signed a peace deal between Israel and Egypt, and that it was Netanyahu himself who ended the Israeli occupation of Palestinian cities such as Nablus.

Nevertheless, he now has a huge amount of work to do to repair the damage he has inflicted in recent days. Already, the Palestinian leaders have said they will seek to press ahead with unilateral steps towards independence. They also say that in the next fortnight they will file war crimes charges at the Hague against Israel for military actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

More menacingly, there is strong evidence that the Islamist forces of Hamas in Gaza are rearming with rockets, ready for a fresh assault on Israeli population centers.

And so the likelihood of a devastating cycle of violence increases once again - and the implications for the wider world could not be more chilling.

The journalist Alex Brummer is a vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

PM Netanyahu meets with delegation of US senators

​PM Netanyahu: I think the most important thing is to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a path to the bomb and that Iran’s aggression in Yemen and elsewhere, including around Israel’s borders, is stopped.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation of US senators led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Intelligence Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz also attended the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"We are very much concerned for our common interests by the developments in the Middle East. As we are speaking, Iran is rampaging through Yemen; it is conquering the Middle East.

This is correctly seen by all the countries in the Middle East as a strategic move to dominate the region and therefore we are witnessing something quite unprecedented.

And as Israel and the Arab countries see Iran progressing with its aggression to conquer Yemen and the Bab el-Mandeb straits, talks continue as usual and go on, on a deal that from everything that we hear paves Iran’s way to the bomb.
Will this increase or decrease Iran’s aggression? Will the fact that Iran, while it’s still under sanctions, does not yet have an easy path to the bomb, but is conquering the Middle East in ways that are unprecedented? Will this make their move forward more moderate or will it make it more extreme? I think it’s a no-brainer. But this is happening before our eyes and I think the most important thing is to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a path to the bomb and that Iran’s aggression in Yemen and elsewhere, including around Israel’s borders is stopped."

Prime Minister Netanyahu added:

"Senator McConnell, Mitch, and friends. It’s very good to see you here in Israel. But I’m delighted always to see you and all Representatives from the US Congress and Senators. We have a strong bipartisan base of support for alliance. I spoke the other day with Harry Reid, congratulated him on his years of service and also his years of support for the Israeli-American alliance. This is something that I think cuts across the aisle in the United States. And I believe will continue to do so."

Senator McConnell said:

"Mr. Prime Minister, let me add on our behalf, first, we were all extraordinarily impressed with your address to the joint session a few weeks ago.

I want to assure all Israelis that the US-Israel relationship is still, no matter what’s been said recently, in very, very strong shape on a bipartisan basis in the US Congress.

The group who are here share your concerns about this potential agreement and there are options that the United States has in a wake of an agreement and if there is no agreement. The option if there’s an agreement is a bill that we intend to vote on that enjoys bipartisan support to require that agreement come to Congress for approval.

If there’s no deal, then the view of this group, similar to your own, is that ratcheting up sanctions might be the best direction to take in the wake of a deal that does not come together."
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