The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Roni Alsheich says testimony from state’s witness strengthens corruption cases

A day after a former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal to become a state’s witness against him, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich says such deals help police fight corruption.

“State’s witnesses are one of the most important tools for preventing crime organizations and public corruption,” he tells the Sderot Conference in the southern Israeli city.

“They tell the full story,” he adds, “a stronger, stable and open testimony, of course backed up by other proof greatly strengthens the case.”

Yesterday Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, signed a deal to become a state’s witness in the Case 4000 corruption probe. The prime minister’s Likud allyie have since suggested that his testimony will be unreliable given that such deals are only made with a guilty person.

AG says Chief Rabbinate should not control Western Wall’s mixed prayer section

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says that the southern section of the Western Wall should be designated as a “holy site” for pluralistic prayer, and the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate should not have any control over the area.

The statement, submitted as a written letter to the Supreme Court, comes in response to several ongoing court petitions coming from both sides of the issue of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Among the petitioners are the major non-Orthodox Jewish movements, the Women of the Wall (and its splinter group headed by Prof. Shulamit Magnus), as well as the Women for the Wall, who are against women’s Torah reading at the Western Wall.

Mandelblit says law enforcement agencies have a duty to ensure that there are no disruptions to prayer there and no unruly behavior by protesters, and that the government must create a body that would be responsible for the area, but which would not include representatives of the Orthodox rabbinate or the rabbi of the Western Wall.

— with Amanda Borschel-Dan

Monaco’s prince honored for Holocaust apology

A prestigious think tank on tolerance comprising former European leaders honored Prince Albert II of Monaco for his apology for his country’s treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, among other actions.

The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation bestows its European Medal of Tolerance on Prince Albert II of Monaco for his apology for his country’s treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, among other actions.

In 2015 the prince acknowledged his country’s rounding up and deportation of 66 Jews in 1942.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, center, receiving a medal from ECTR President Moshe Kantor, left, and ECTR chair, Tony Blair, on March 6, 2018 in Monte Carlo. (Courtesy of ECTR)

“You have found the courage and political wisdom to openly address painful history and difficult memories,” says Moshe Kantor, the head of the European Jewish Congress and the president of the council, whose chair is former British Prime Minister Tony Bla

In response, the prince vowed to continue to work for the commemoration of the Holocaust “not only as head of state but simply as human being.”


Russia says it’s coordinating fresh convoy to Syria’s besieged Ghouta

Russia’s defense ministry says its officials are discussing with international humanitarian organizations a plan to send a fresh aid convoy to Syria’s rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

The United Nations says a convoy delivering desperately needed aid to the town of Douma in the besieged enclave was forced to cut its mission short amid shelling.

“Following the humanitarian convoy to Douma, we discussed measures to coordinate new humanitarian convoys to Eastern Ghouta, including one planned for Thursday,” Russian agencies report General Vladimir Zolotukhin as saying.


US ambassador to Israel to speak at AIPAC conference on its final day

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is set to address the America Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington in the next few minutes.

The speech, which comes on the conference’s final day, will be followed by addresses from Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, and House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the 18,000-strong plenum at 9:30 a.m. EST (4:30 p.m Israel time).

AIPAC’s own live feed is here.

US envoy AIPAC: Trump admin a ‘fundamental change in’ Israel-US relations

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, addressing the America Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington, says the Trump administration represents a “fundamental change” in Israel-US relations.

“Thank you for being here and showing your support for Israel,” he opens his speech to the 18,000-strong crowd. “What an honor it is to address you this morning.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at AIPAC (AIPAC screenshot)

“I am so proud of what the Trump administration has accomplished this passed year in regards to Israel,” he says, describing it as a year of “historic firsts.”

He says that moves such as recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “represents a fundamental shift, a sea change in the way American relates to its closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.”


David Friedman: Israel wants peace, suggesting otherwise is dangerous

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tells AIPAC attendees that it’s “dangerous” to suggest that Israel doesn’t want peace.

​”Saying that you are pro-Israel and pro-peace is disingenuous,” he says, in an apparent reference to J Street, the left-wing US organization that describes itself as such.

“Using that phrase suggests Israel is not pro-peace. Saying pro-Israel and pro-peace is a redundancy. If you support Israel, you support peace and it is dangerous to suggest otherwise,” he says.

“Peace is a core Israeli value and a core American value​.”

Norway ex-PM: ‘double standard’ on Israel cripples nuclear non-proliferation

A former prime minster of Norway says that Israel is part of the problem undermining efforts to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“We have used wars and occupation of Muslim countries,” Kjell Magne Bondevik, whose last term as Norwegian prime minister ended in 2005, singled out Pakistan, India and the Jewish state says during a conference on tolerance by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.

“Of course this does not excuse terrorism but we need to be more consistent. The same can be said about nuclear proliferation, but how to approach countries like Pakistan, India and Israel? It this a double standard? We have to question ourselves and we have to be aware that many in the Muslim world may use this as an excuse and talk of double standard in this regard,” he says.


Friedman to AIPAC: We owe Trump ‘a tremendous debt of gratitude’

Friedman tells AIPAC that Israel should thank US President Donald Trump for his support of Israel.

“We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude,” he says.

​”We entered historic territory when Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Jerusalem,” he says, recounting a year of “historic firsts.”


Justice minister files complaint against judge in texting scandal

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked files a complaint with the Supreme Court against a judge presiding over remand extensions in the Bezeq corruption probe who appeared to have colluded with a state prosecutor.

In response, Esther Hayut, head of the court, is expected to set up a special disciplinary court to hear the complaint against Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz, who appeared to coordinate remand rulings for the suspects implicated in a corruption case with Israel Securities Authority attorney Eran Shacham-Shavit.

On Monday the court announced an inquiry into the incident, headed by Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron, who will be joined by Beersheba District Court Judge Revital Yaffe Katz, and Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Judge Einat Ron.

Marco Rubio to AIPAC: Israel stands for everything Middle East should be

Republican Senator Marco Rubio tells AIPAC that Israel is an example for other countries in the Middle East.

“It is a country dedicated to freedom, democracy and all the values that we share,” he tells the plenary session.

“If we had countries like Israel in the Middle East our lives would be a lot simpler.”

Russian cargo plane crashes in Syria, 32 killed

Russia says a military cargo plane has crashed at the Russian air base in Syria, killing all 32 people onboard.

The Defense Ministry says the An-26, with 26 passengers and six crew members onboard, crashed Tuesday just 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the runway. The military blamed the crash on a technical error.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases a military base in Syria near the Mediterranean coast.

— AP

Palestinian official: We did not run away from negotiations

A senior Palestinian official is objecting to US President Donald Trump’s assertion that the Palestinians have walked away from peace negotiations.

Mohammed Ishtayeh, a top adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, says the Trump administration has pushed the Palestinians away from any peace process by taking a series of steps in favor of Israel.

“When … President Trump says the Palestinians are running away from the negotiating table, which negotiating table?” Ishtayeh tells foreign journalists. “Since he came to power, there have been no negotiations whatsoever.”

Ishtayeh criticizes the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move its embassy there in May, as well as US cuts in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

He called for US “confidence-building steps” and an internationally sponsored peace process.

— AP

British MPs ask Egypt to visit jailed ex-president Morsi

Three British members of Parliament are requesting that Egyptian authorities allow them to visit the country’s imprisoned former president Mohammed Morsi over concerns about his health.

The group, headed by the Conservative Party’s Crispin Blunt, says in a statement it made the request in a letter to the Egyptian ambassador a day earlier. They said they want to visit Morsi in Egypt’s Tora prison along with lawyers and a Labour parliamentarian who is a doctor specializing in cases of mistreatment and torture.

Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 18, 2016. (AP/Amr Nabil)

In a copy of the letter, Blunt says he was invited on behalf of Morsi’s family, which says they have seen him only twice in detention in four years and that he is suffering from diabetes, loss of sight and other ailments and not receiving proper treatment.

— AP

Netanyahu to address AIPAC at pro-Israel conference’s final day

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the America Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington at 9:30 a.m. EST (4:30 p.m Israel time).

His speech follows addresses at the plenum this week by US Vice President Mike Pence, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

1 million euro prize will reward research in ‘secure tolerance’

European Jewish leader Dr. Moshe Kantor announces during a conference in Monaco a 1 million euro prize for “secure tolerance.”

The Kantor Prize for Secure Tolerance, launched at the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, will reward “exceptional achievements in research and advanced thinking on ‘Secure Tolerance’” in order to help Europeans act against impending threats to their security and human rights, Kantor says in a statement.

Kantor is president of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. He also serves as president of the European Jewish Congress.

Kantor says that more and more Europeans are feeling excluded as a result of the rapid technological and societal changes that have swept the Continent. “Many, especially in Europe, feel disenfranchised and unable to have access to the benefits of these changes so they seek out simplistic solutions which, rather than really address their problems, placate them through nationalism, populism and extremism,” he says. “We can either sit around or wait passively for the next conflagration, economic depression or war or we can seek to build new models for a tolerant society, benefiting all in full security.”

Trump hails ‘possible progress’ with North Korea

US President Donald Trump hails “possible progress” on the North Korea nuclear impasse after Seoul announced Pyongyang was willing to discuss giving up its nuclear weapons for American security guarantees.

“For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned,” Trump says on Twitter. “The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the US is ready to go hard in either direction!”


Cultural attaché, not ambassador, to attend Israeli film fest in Paris

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says that the Israeli cultural attaché to France will attend the Israeli Film Festival in Paris, but not the ambassador, after organizers refused Jerusalem’s requests to showcase a film other than the controversial “Foxtrot.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev withdrew Israeli support for the festival.

“Foxtrot” centers on parents’ grief for their fallen son, and includes a scene in which IDF soldiers cover up the murder of four Arab youths. Regev, who has admitted to never having seen the film, has repeatedly lambasted the film, saying it “shows Israeli army soldiers in a deceptive manner as murderers and harms the good name of the Israel Defense Forces.”

Netanyahu at AIPAC: ‘Thank you, President Trump’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens his speech to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington by thanking US President Donald Trump for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there.

“Thank you, President Trump, for that historic decision,” he tells the 18,000-strong crowd.

“As I told President Trump yesterday, it’s especially great to be in America’s capital, now that he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Netanyahu says Israel foiled ‘dozens and dozens’ of global terror attacks

Netanyahu tells AIPAC that “in the last few years, Israel’s security agencies have foiled dozens, dozens and dozes of terror attacks in dozens of countries around the world.”

“Isreal not only protects Israeli lives, it protects innocent lives around the world,” he says.

Last month, the IDF revealed that its Military Intelligence Unit 8200 foiled an attempt by the Islamic State jihadist group to bomb a flight from Australia in August.

The revelation was an unusual move for the Israeli army, which generally keeps mum on the operations of the secretive Unit 8200, which is similar to the American National Security Agency. It collects information from electronic communication, also referred to as signals intelligence.

Netanyahu: We will boycott the boycotters

Touting Israel’s relations around the world, Netanyahu says Israel is “coloring the world blue” by forging new relations.

“Pretty soon, the countries that don’t have relationship with us, they be isolated,” he says.

“There are those who talk about boycotting Israel, we’ll boycott them!” he bellows.

Netanyahu: ‘We must stop Iran, we will stop Iran’

“We must stop Iran, we will stop Iran,” Netanayahu tells AIPAC, saying that it is the most important issue facing Israel.

“We will not let Iran develop nuclear weapons, not now, now in 10 years, not ever,” he says.

“Last time I was here,” he says, ” I warned Iran’s regime will not become more moderate and liberal but it will become more radical and dangerous.”

“I was right,” he says.

Netanyahu: I salute Trump for standing up to Iran

Netanyahu says that US President Donald Trump is “doing the wight thing” in standing up to Iran by threatening it with new sanctions.

“I salute President Trump for this,” he says.

“I believe that a day will come when this horrible tyranny will disappear from the earth.”

Netanyahu says he and Trump are ‘dedicated to peace’

Netanyahu says he and Trump want peace with the Palestinians.

“President Trump is dedicated to peace, I am dedicated to peace,” he tells AIPAC, thanking Trump’s team of envoys for “helping with this.”

Netanyahu to Abbas: ‘Invest in peace, invest in life’

Slamming the Palestinian Authority for paying stipends to jailed terrorists, Netanyahu says peace will never come “until the Palestinians stop funding death.”

Naming PA President Mahmoud Abbas as the man behind the payments, Netanyahu tells him: “Invest in peace, invest in life.”

Netanyahu ends AIPAC speech by praising ‘beautiful Israel-US relationship’

Netanyahu concludes his speech to AIPAC by praising what he says is “the closest relationship between our two countries we have ever seen.”

Under Trump, he says, there is a “beautiful Israel-US relationship.”

“God bless Israel, God bless America and God bless the Israel-America alliance,” he finishes to a standing ovation from the crowd.

J Street hits back at Friedman after AIPAC jab

Liberal Mideast policy group J Street on Tuesday hit back at the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who suggested earlier that its approach to Middle East peace was “dangerous” and “blasphemous.”

“It’s not blasphemous to suggest that the settlement movement and its allies in the Netanyahu and Trump governments are not committed to peace,” J Street founder and director Jeremy Ben-Ami tells The Times of Israel.

He says that Netanyahu, Trump, and their political allies “have spent years helping to expand and entrench the occupation — undermining the two-state solution and endangering Israel’s future.”

In remarks to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington earlier on Tuesday, Friedman, in an apparent jab at J Street and other left-wing groups, said it was “dangerous” to say that Israel is not committed to Middle East peace.

Polish official denies US sanctioning over Holocaust law

Poland’s Foreign Ministry denies reports that the US. is punishing Poland over a controversial new Holocaust law.

Bartosz Cichocki, the deputy foreign minister, concedes that Washington has been expressing “concerns and questions” about the law, but said reports of sanctions are untrue.

Polish news portal Onet reports that the Polish government was told that President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cannot count on any meetings with either US President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence until Poland changes the law.

Onet said it has seen Polish documents confirming the ultimatum, and reported that the Americans also threatened to block the financing of joint military projects.

— AP

Senator Robert Menendez thanks AIPAC for backing him during trial

Addressing its annual conference in Washington Democratic Senator Robert Menendez thanked the AIPAC lobby for its support during his corruption trial.

In 2015, federal prosecutors charged Menendez with accepting favors from a political donor. The Justice Department dropped the charges in January following the mistrial late last year.

Senator Robert Menendez addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., March 5, 2013. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“Sometimes God puts a Goliath in your path until you find the David within you, and I found the David within me,” Menendez said. “Many of you today were part of that slingshot.”

Menendez, a leading pro-Israel Democrat, fundraised in the pro-Israel community during his trial.


Trump denies White House chaos

US President Donald Trump insists his White House is not in chaos, despite a wave of resignations and FBI investigators circling his top aides.

Trump decries reports of “CHAOS in the White House” as a “Fake News narrative” in an early morning tweet, which is apparently designed to reassure supporters that his administration has not careened off the rails.

“Wrong! People will always come & go,” he says after his closest aide Hope Hicks and his staff secretary Rob Porter stepped down amid interwoven scandals.


Russia says 39 died in plane crash in Syria

Russia’s Defense Ministry raises the death toll from the crash of a military cargo plane at an air base in Syria to 39.

The ministry says in a statement that 33 passengers and six crew members were killed when the An-26 crashed just 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the runway.

The Russian military previously put the death toll at 32.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases the Hemeimeem military base in Syria, near the Mediterranean coast.

The base is far from the front lines of the conflict, but came under shelling in December. The Russian military insisted the cargo plane did not come under fire, while saying it would conduct a full investigation.

— AP

Belgium distributes iodine pills in case of nuclear accident

Belgium is beginning to make iodine pills available free to its 11 million people in case of an accident at its ageing nuclear plants but said there was no “specific risk.”

The government also launches a website in the country’s official languages — French, Dutch, and German — to instruct people what to do in an emergency, as it began implementing plans announced two years ago.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon says his government aimed to “properly inform” the public, but said the plans were preventative.

“For now there is no specific risk with our nuclear plants,” Jambon tells Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

Pharmacies interviewed by Belgian media said they had begun receiving some of the 4.5 million boxes of 10 iodine pills — which help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid gland — that were ordered by the government.


Saudi Arabia defends ‘just’ Yemen war ahead of UK visit

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister defends his country’s “just” war in Yemen, on the eve of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s controversial visit to Britain.

“They criticise us for a war in Yemen that we did not want, that was imposed on us,” Adel Al-Jubeir tells BBC Radio 4.

“They criticise us for a war in Yemen that is a just war, that is supported by international law,” he adds.

Protest group Stop the War will hold a rally outside Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street residence on Wednesday to denounce Saudi Arabia’s “brutal and illegal bombing” in Yemen and London’s support for the Middle Eastern regime.



Egypt detains 6 over play about 1985 slaying of Israeli tourists by policeman

Egyptian officials say six people have been arrested for their involvement in a play seen as insulting to security forces.

They say that the playwright, director, and officials of the Cairo sports club where the play was staged were arrested last week and are being investigated by military prosecutors.

The play’s title is the name of a police conscript, Suliman Khater, who killed seven Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula in 1985. He was sentenced to life in prison but was found dead in his cell a year later.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

Last week, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said any defamation of the country’s security forces amounted to “high treason.”


George Soros denies funding students’ gun control fight

Student survivors of a mass shooting in Florida who’ve rallied to increase gun control aren’t being bankrolled by billionaire liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros, despite the claims of several false stories, his company says.

Soros is not providing any funding to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, although he does support their efforts, says his spokeswoman, Laura Silber.

George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundation, at a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2017. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)

“Those who smear their motives, and try to paint their genuine grassroots activism as somehow bought and paid for, do them — and the country — a grave disservice,” Soros’ organization, the Open Societies Foundations, says in a statement,

The students began lobbying to change gun laws shortly after the shooting that killed 17, planning a March 24 demonstration in Washington and drawing supporters on social media and through television appearances.

Police hacked Elovitch’s wife phone to get proof on deal with PM — report

Police hacked the phone of Iris Elovtich, the wife of Bezeq majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch and a suspect in the Case 4000 corruption probe along with her husband, in order to find proof of an illicit quid pr quo deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 10 news reports.

The Case 4000 investigation involves suspicions that Shaul Elovitch ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant fawning coverage to the Netanyahus in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting him.

According to the report, police used a foreign technology company to access text messages on Iris Elovitch’s phone which show Netanyahu and his associates discussing the alleged deal.

It was not clear from the report if the apparent hacking took place before or after Evlotich and her husband were made suspects in the case some two weeks ago.

A police spokesperson told The Times of Israel that they could not confirm or deny the report nor could they say whether a warrant for such a search was issued.

Arizona State University sued over enforcement of state anti-BDS law

A federal lawsuit filed against Arizona State University claims the school is violating the free speech of a student Muslim group by not allowing it to sponsor a speaker who promotes a boycott of Israel.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the suit last week in US District Court in Phoenix on behalf of the school’s Muslim students.

Arizona State’s Muslim Students Association invited Hatem Bazian, the founder of American Muslims for Palestine, to speak at a campus event on April 3. But Bazain, a senior lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, said he would not sign the speaker’s contract because of a “no boycott of Israel” clause added to the pact after the state passed an anti-BDS law.

Bazian also is a co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine and, according to the lawsuit, a leader in the US of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The Arizona law passed in March 2016 requires that any company contracting with the state submit a written certification that it is not currently boycotting Israel. Similar anti-BDS laws have been passed in more than 20 states.

The lawsuit calls on the court to declare the Arizona anti-BDS law unconstitutional and to order the university and its board of regents to remove the “No Boycott of Israel” clause from its speakers contract.


Ultra-Orthodox party head said to blame Netanyahu for coalition crisis

Sources close to United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman reportedly say that deputy minister does not want elections, and blamed Prime Minister Netanyahu for leading the coalition to a breaking point.

“Litzman believes that Netanyahu wants elections, based on the fact that he is not making any effort to end the crisis, and because the Likud is not presenting a compromise proposal,” Channel 10 reports Litzman’s close associates as saying.

“If only the prime minister was working more on it. Litzman does not want elections,” the channel quoted them as saying.

UTJ have threatened to vote down the 2019 budget unless legislation is approved exempting members of their community from the military draft.

In response, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has threatened to quit his post if the budget isn’t passed by next week, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has insisted his party will not fold to the demands of his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

High Court rules to freeze compensation payments to settlement home owners

The High Court rules to temporarily freeze the government’s transfer of millions of shekel in compensation to the owners of the illegally built West Bank homes in Amona, Ofra, and Netiv Ha’avot that it demolished under the court’s orders.

Families whose houses were destroyed were set to receive around NIS 1 million ($260,000) from the government.

The interim order requires the state to justify by next Monday why it should be allowed to repay settlers for demolishing homes they built without the government’s permission.

Zarif hits back at Netanyahu AIPAC speech, says Israel cause of regional woes

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responds to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at AIPAC in which he blamed Iran for destabilizing the Middle East, saying that Israel was at the heart of the region’s problems.

“Despite Netanyahu’s claims, the fact is that illegal occupation lies at the heart of most of the calamities in our region,” Zarif writes on Twitter.

“Historically, occupying another’s land has never been sustainable. This occupation, too –and the apartheid system that perpetuates it– will not last long,” he adds.

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