The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they occurred.
DAVOS, Switzerland — Vladimir Putin will not win the war in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says today, assessing that the Russian president has already failed in all of his strategic aims.
Russia’s plan to capture all of Ukraine is “further away today than it was at the beginning” of its invasion on February 24 as Ukraine put up an impressive defense, Scholz tells the Davos World Economic Forum.
“Our goal is crystal clear — Putin must not win this war. And I am convinced that he will not win it,” says the German chancellor.
The US Embassy in Israel forbids its employees from entering the Old City at any time on Sunday, the day that a controversial Flag March is slated to wind its way through that area of the capital.
The embassy says that US government employees may not be in the Old City after dark or on Fridays, may not use Damascus, Herod’s, and Lions’ Gate and may not enter the Old City “at any time on Sunday, May 29.”
Police are on high alert ahead of the nationalist march amid various threats from Hamas and fears of a repeat of last year’s event, during which rockets were fired at Jerusalem sparking an 11-day conflict.
The World Zionist organization says it has given Russia a list of Jewish heritage sites in Ukraine in hopes Moscow will avoid causing damage to them during its invasion.
WZO head Yaakov Hagoel gave the list to Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov in Tel Aviv, which the envoy says will be forwarded to Moscow immediately.
“Ukraine is home to some of the most important and sensitive heritage sites for the Jewish people, including Holocaust memorials and monuments, ancient Jewish cemeteries, tombs of the righteous that serve as a pilgrimage site for many Jews and more,” Hagoel says in a WZO statement. “We must do everything in our power to preserve these sites for future generations, especially in light of the risks created in the area due to the ongoing fighting.”
The WZO says the list is the result of a field survey it carried out in Ukraine recently to map the sites and document their condition.
“The field inspection shows that a number of sites have already been damaged, and many are at risk of unintentional damage due to the fighting,” it says.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and others have repeatedly called out Russia for causing damage to Jewish heritage sites, including Kyiv’s Babyn Yar massacre memorial, while purporting to be fighting against “Nazis.”
Hagoel says that protecting the heritage sites is a secondary goal behind the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian citizens as they suffer through the heaviest fighting since World War II.
The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for the possibility of rocket fire on Israel in connection with Sunday’s Flag March in Jerusalem, the Kan news network reports.
Air defense batteries, including Iron Dome, are being put on a higher state of alert, and their deployments are being adjusted, the broadcaster says.
Hamas fired rockets at the city during the nationalist parade through the Old City last year and has threatened to take action again.
Defense officials have been sending signals through the media and otherwise that the country is not looking for a fight, but is ready for the possibility of one.
Al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese network close to the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, reports that Palestinian groups are not ruling out a “response” from Gaza should there be “provocations” during Sunday’s Flag March in Jerusalem.
“The response to the provocations will be from all the arenas, including Gaza,” Al-Mayadeen reports the terror groups informed Egyptian and international mediators.
Israeli networks reported Tuesday that Israel had sent a message to the groups via the mediators hoping for calm but threatening to strike Gaza if violence breaks out.
The Flag March — a procession of religious nationalists through Jerusalem’s Old City — is set to be held Sunday evening.
Hamas fired rockets at the Jerusalem area last year during the march, which is held in honor of Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem.
This year’s procession is set to be carried out amidst high tension between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel Police said on Wednesday that 3,000 officers would deploy to secure the march.
“The resistance informed mediators that it will not allow settler thuggery in Jerusalem,” the agency says.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has taken to the Senate floor to call out the Republicans’ decades-long opposition to gun control legislation in the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.
“Maybe the thought of putting yourself in the shoes of these parents instead of in the arms of the NRA might let you wriggle free from the vise-like grip of the NRA to act on even a simple measure,” the New York Democrat says. “For the sake of these children, these 9-year-olds, these 10-year-olds, these 11-year-olds, these beautiful children, please, damn it.”
The Democrats’ desperate pleas to Republican colleagues reflect a long history of congressional inaction on gun control since a gunman killed 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago.
Democratic lawmakers have introduced countless proposals that would have required a background check of the gunman in Texas. All failed to pass, mostly due to the filibuster.
Schumer pledges Wednesday to move forward with or without Republican lawmakers. “If we can’t find a good, strong bill that has bipartisan support, we will continue to pursue this issue on our own,” he says.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers his own address in which he focuses on the mental state of the shooter, echoing GOP arguments that emotional health and not guns are the issue.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio tells CNN that Americans should continue to be able to buy AR-15 rifles, claiming that if the shooter didn’t have access to the semi-automatic weapon, he would have found another way to kill 19 children and two adults in a matter of minutes.
“Listen, at the end of day, you’re arguing about what they’re using to commit this, and the truth of matter is these people are going to commit these horrifying crimes whether they have to use another weapon to do it; they’re going to figure out a way to do it,” Rubio says.
Former US president Donald Trump says he’ll “deliver an important address to America” at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Texas on Friday.
The Republican leader posted on his social media network Wednesday that “America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship.”
Houston’s Democratic mayor, Sylvester Turner, says some people want the city to cancel the NRA meeting, but he says they can’t break the contract.
The greater question, he says, is why politicians still plan to speak there after the shooting in Uvalde. Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz are among other Republicans scheduled to address a leadership forum sponsored by the NRA’s lobbying arm.
“So, it’s not about us canceling the convention,” Turner said. “It’s about elected officials at the highest level in our state going and speaking and endorsing those policies and that’s wrong. And you can’t pray and send condolences on one day and then be going and championing guns on the next. That’s wrong.”
US Special Envoy for Iran tells a congressional panel that prospects for restoring the Iran nuclear agreement are “at best tenuous.”
“We do not have a deal with Iran and prospects for reaching one are, at best, tenuous,” Malley testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Malley all but confirms Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement yesterday that US President Joe Biden has made a final decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.
He explains that demands that go beyond the scope of the original nuclear deal would have to be met with reciprocal concessions by Iran which also fall outside the parameters of the 2015 JCPOA, such as an IRGC delisting. But since Iran has refused to make any such concessions, the US would not do so either, Malley says.
Malley is pushed by senators from both parties to reveal the administration’s Plan B if negotiations in Vienna fail at their objective of restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The special envoy largely dodges and avoids offering a timeline for when the US would walk away from the talks.
He says the US would continue to negotiate “as long as the non-proliferations benefits of the deal are worth the sanctions relief that we would provide.”
An environmentally-friendly bill to raise the price of single-use plastic shopping bags that had caused a rift in the opposition has failed to win Knesset approval, though a similar measure from a coalition lawmaker passes in preliminary reading.
The measure, from Likud’s Gila Gamliel, gets 22 yeas to 22 nays in the Knesset, keeping it from advancing. Ra’am MK Mansour Abbas says he intended to vote for it, but the system malfunctioned, and the tally stands.
A similar measure by Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano advances 23-22.
Haredi Shas party leader Aryeh Deri had earlier told Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse his party’s lack of opposition for Gamliel’s measure, threatening to no longer respect voting discipline among the opposition’s right-religious bloc, according to a report in Israel Hayom. Likud had initially allowed members to vote however they wanted on Gamliel’s measure.
Deri’s opposition to increased fees on single-use plastic shopping bags is in line with long-standing Haredi party positions against measures that could raise the cost of living for their constituencies.
Netanyahu asked Gamliel to pull the bill, which she refused, angering the former premier.
Netanyahu is caught on camera angrily lambasting Gamliel for her refusal, saying “because of this we won’t succeed in toppling the opposition.”
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 25, 2022
The US Treasury Department announces a new series of sanctions targeting an oil smuggling and money laundering network belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and backed by Russia.
The network “has facilitated the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of oil for the Quds Force and Hezbollah, and it spans several jurisdictions, including Iran and Russia,” the Treasury Department says.
The network is led by Quds Force official Behnam Shahriyari and former Quds Force official Rostam Ghasemi, who have been designated by the Treasury Department for sanctions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Biden administration takes these steps as it continues to seek a mutual US-Iran return to compliance with the multilateral nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
US Special Envoy on Iran Rob Malley discusses the new sanctions during his testimony on the status of the JCPOA talks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The announcement is lauded by the panel’s chairman Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, but scoffed at by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch, who says the IRGC has already been thoroughly sanctioned and that this move won’t make a difference.
He says the administration should instead focus on sanctioning Iranian oil sales to China.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says evidence that Iran used secret UN documents to get a jump on nuclear inspections and cover up enrichment activity should be a “wake up call to the world.”
“The systematic policy of fraud, theft and concealing evidence by Iran against the IAEA should now become a definitive fact in the eyes of the international community,” he says in a statement sent by his office.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Iranian nuclear records stolen by Israeli spies from an archive showed the presence of documents from the International Atomic Energy Agency along with notes in Persian about how to mislead inspectors or hide activity between 2004 and 2006.
The Wall Street Journal had described its source for the information as “a Middle East intelligence agency that hails from a country that opposes Iran’s nuclear program,” likely referring to Israel’s spy services, which would have almost certainly needed Bennett’s okay to leak the papers.
Though the documents are nearly 20 years old, Bennett says the report offers “additional proof of Iranian efforts to advance toward achieving nuclear weapons.
Iran insists it has given up any ambitions for a nuclear weapon, but it has continued to enrich uranium to levels that are only usable for weapons, according to Western intelligence.
Bennett praises IAEA Rafael Grossi for continuing to press Iran on unanswered questions about nuclear activity and not closing inspection files from that period.
“Apart from the deception, the documents attest to prohibited and ongoing nuclear activity, which reveals new issues that demand investigation. In light of the foregoing, the time has come for the IAEA Board of Governors to issue a clear message to Iran: Enough,” Bennett says.
Two senior White House officials are reportedly in Saudi Arabia for hush-hush talks on a deal that could see Washington and Riyadh restore ties and advance toward Saudi normalization with Israel.
US President Joe Biden’s Middle East envoy Brett McGurk and State Department international energy envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday according to Axios, citing current and former US officials.
The two were in talks aimed at securing a package of understanding between the US and Saudi Arabia that could pave the way for a possible meeting between Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when the president visits the region next month.
Biden had kept Riyadh at arm’s length, but is now keen for the Saudis to up oil production as he deals with runaway inflation and sky-high energy prices that have only been made worse by the war in Ukraine.
CNN reported last week that talks over a possible meeting were underway in Washington, with a former US official saying they were a question of “when, not if.”
There is no confirmation of the visit or the talks.
According to Axios, the talks may be tied to US mediation of negotiations between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel that could lead Jerusalem and Riyadh to eventually normalize ties.
Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi says that she successfully secured NIS 25 million ($7.5 million) from the government to improve hospitals in Nazareth.
The funds are part of a deal made with the coalition to appease the Nazareth-area MK, who bolted the coalition last Thursday and returned 72 hours later following pressure and renewed promises.
During her brief resignation, Rinawie Zoabi chastised the coalition for being insufficiently supportive of Arab society. She now says that the hospital funds are the first of several measures she is involved with to benefit Arab society.
Law enforcement officials are reviewing an Instagram account that appears to belong to the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers in Texas.
A series of posts appeared in the days leading up to Tuesday’s shooting. One selfie image appears to show the shooter in front of a mirror. Another photo shows a gun magazine in hand. And on Friday, the same day law enforcement officials believe Salvador Ramos bought a second rifle, a picture of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles appeared.
Another Instagram user with many more followers was tagged in that post. That user has since removed her profile, but first she shared parts of what appears to be a chilling exchange, with Ramos asking her to share his gun pictures with her more than 10,000 followers.
Chat logs b/t the shooter and the person that he tagged in the above photo. pic.twitter.com/EtgInCP8iP
— Doge (@IntelDoge) May 24, 2022
“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” she responded, adding, “It’s just scary.”
A response sent from Ramos’s account on Tuesday morning just said: “I’m about to.”
He told the person he had a “lil secret” and would text them before 11 a.m.
Witnesses said they heard the shooting begin around 11:30 a.m.
The account linked to Ramos has been removed. Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A TikTok account also linked to Ramos, and also removed, had the words “kids be scared irl” below his profile picture. IRL stands for “in real life.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is heading to India on June 1 to sign a “special security declaration” marking 30 years of security relations between the countries, his office says.
The trip was initially meant to take place in March, but Gantz delayed it due to a series of deadly terror attacks.
His office does not immediately detail the schedule of the trip, or when he is expected to return.
Police chief Kobi Shabtai has ordered the readiness alert level to be ratcheted up in Jerusalem and so-called mixed cities throughout the country ahead of a nationalist march planned for Sunday, Ynet reports.
The alert level has been raised to its second highest level in the capital, where the march is set to take place, and in cities with large populations of both Jews and Arabs, where racial violence exploded last year.
Shabtai ordered that leave be largely curtailed for the Border Police and training courses canceled so troops can be deployed instead. Three companies will be called up from reserves and the rest of the reserves ordered to be at the ready for possible deployment.
Officials fear a repeat of violence surrounding the yearly Jerusalem Day flag march, which generally attracts thousands of hardline nationalists who march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall to mark the anniversary of the city’s unification in 1967. Police have capped participation in the part of the march that goes through the Old City at 16,000.
A statement from Shabtai says 3,000 police will guard the march, while thousands more will be deployed around the city and other locations, including mixed cities. A separate statement from the Jerusalem Police indicates the number of officers guarding the flag march will be closer to 2,000.
Police also note that a number of other events in the coming days, including an all-night student festival and a Jewish pilgrimage to Nabi Samwil in the West Bank just outside East Jerusalem, will require road closures and extra police enforcement and citizen patience.
“Our main task is to ensure that Jerusalem Day events can go ahead properly and safely as every year,” top Jerusalem cop Doron Turgeman says.
He also notes that claims the march will ascend the Temple Mount are false.
Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Isaac Herzog lays out a taste of his vision for what he terms a “Renewable Middle East.”
“Together, we can shape not only a new Middle East, but a Renewable Middle East: a new regional alliance for a stable and sustainable future. A Middle East that thrives as a global hub of sustainable solutions in food, water and health; that serves as a source of energy, mostly solar, to Europe, Asia and Africa,” he says.
He describes it as “a region that is not only new, in the sense of different, but is sustained by its own positive momentum, developing collaborative defense systems, joint infrastructure, and shared technologies for improving the world.”
Herzog also warns against the rise of online incitement and antisemitism, citing conspiracy theories that have blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the Jews.
“There is always someone blaming the Jewish people,” Herzog says.
As Americans mourn the victims of another mass shooting, Israeli networks are closely covering the aftermath of the deadly shooting attack at a Texas elementary school and barely disguising their bewilderment at the lack of gun reform in the US.
“It’s incomprehensible what’s happening there, the flags are lowered to half mast for three days, and again you hear the outraged voices asking how can it be that this happens again and again, nothing is done, or maybe there’s nothing to be done, and they need to live with it, because of this law that allows this to happen. Will anything change?” asks Channel 12 anchor Ofer Haddad.
“Try, beg, America is in shock and nothing changes,” he adds, after the channel screens videos that have gone viral of Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr making impassioned pleas for gun control.
“The US is shaken by the massacre, but gun laws are not expected to change: ‘How many more must die,'” reads the top headline on the popular Ynet news website.
A number of journalists point out the ease at which “someone can walk into Wal-Mart and buy a gun,” as noted by Channel 12’s Yona Leibzon.
“In Texas, you can’t drink at 18 and can’t drive at 18, but you can buy a gun,” Channel 13’s Yosef Yisrael notes. (In reality, you can drive in Texas at 16.)
“If they want to pass gun reform, they will have a majority in the House but it will fall in the Senate,” Hebrew University expert Jonathan Freeman tells Army Radio.
And on social media, as has happens every time there is a mass shooting in the US, some are contrasting Israel’s gun laws with those of the US.
1/ As an American in Israel. I cannot tell you how true this is.
Israelis- left & right- don’t understand the obsession with unrestricted gun ownership & are horrified/baffled by the unwillingness of US lawmakers to take steps needed to protect their children from gun violence https://t.co/yCnpif7lCn
— yoni brander (@yonibrander) May 25, 2022
Ukraine’s foreign minister says the urgency of his country’s weapons needs can be summed up in two abbreviations: MLRS — multiple launch rocket systems, and ASAP — as soon as possible.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says the situation in the eastern Donbas region “is extremely bad.” The rocket systems could help Ukrainian forces try to recapture places such as the southern city of Kherson from Russian occupiers who invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Kuleba says he had about 10 bilateral meetings with other leaders whose countries possess such systems.
“The response I get is, ‘Have the Americans given it to you already?’” he says, alluding to US leadership. “So this is the burden of being a leader. Everyone is looking at you. So Washington has to keep the promise and provide us with multiple launch rocket systems as soon as possible. Others will follow.”
“If we do not get an MLRS ASAP, the situation in Donbas will get even worse than it is now,” he added. “Every day of someone sitting in Washington, Berlin, Paris and other capitals, and considering whether they should or should not do something, costs us lives and territories.”
Footage from Huwara in the northern West Bank shows Israeli troops protecting a group of Israelis parading through the Palestinian town with Israeli flags.
The show of force comes after the son of a far-right MK and his family were hurt in a stone-throwing attack in the area last night.
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) May 25, 2022
According to Palestinian media reports, soldiers are firing stun grenades and tear gas at Palestinians in the area.
In recent weeks, Israeli troops have been documented both removing Palestinian flags from lampposts in the area and protecting settlers as they remove the flags too.
There is no immediate comment from the army on the incident.
A law enforcement official says all those killed at a Texas elementary school were in the same classroom.
Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Christopher Olivarez tells CNN that all victims were in the same fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 85 miles west of San Antonio. He says the shooter barricaded himself in the room.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in Tuesday’s shooting. Authorities say the 18-year-old shooter is also dead.
The gunman carried a long rifle with multiple rounds of ammunition and wore a “tactical vest” as body armor, Olivarez tells NBC’s “Today” show.
It “shows the intent of this evil person going into this school and having complete disregard for human life,’’ Olivarez says.
The San Antonio Express-News reports that the shooter also also bought 375 rounds of 5.56 ammunition, according to state Sen. John Whitmire, who was briefed on the shooting.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has never flown on Israel’s version of Air Force One and seemingly never will. The Defense Ministry indicates it is putting the Boeing 767 in mothballs, just months after it got final approval for takeoff.
The NIS 750 million ($241 million) boondoggle, dubbed “Wing of Zion,” took years to outfit. It is meant to be used by Israeli heads of state for official business. But Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog have not touched the plane, which was closely associated with former premier and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Defense Ministry says in a statement that the plane is being moved from the Israel Aerospace Industries hangar at Ben-Gurion International Airport to the Nevatim air force base in southern Israel, where a special area has been built to house it.
“The plane will be stored on-site while being maintained, until a decision is made about how it will be used in the future,” the ministry says.
The 20-year-old 767 Boeing plane, which underwent significant renovations, includes a private office for the prime minister, a bedroom with a bathroom and shower, a fully stocked kitchen, a meeting room and even a “war room.”
In December, when the plane was given the final okay to fly, IAI union head Yair Katz, whose father is a former Likud minister closely tied to Netanyahu, said it was “absurd that the splendor of Israeli art is collecting dust in the parking lot and is not being used for the purpose for which it was developed by IAI’s best engineers.”
Israel’s Border Police force says officers have caught over 2,600 undocumented Palestinians in Israel, and over 400 other people helping smuggle them over the porous West Bank security barrier this month.
A spokesperson says in a statement that over 100,000 stops were made of “suspects” over the last three or so weeks, netting 2,612 individuals allegedly in the country illegally, and another 456 people who allegedly drove, housed or employed the undocumented individuals, most of whom were likely construction workers.
It does not say if the individuals have been arrested or charged.
Israel has been focused on stemming the influx of Palestinians who sneak across the fence for work following a series of attacks by terrorists who used the same same holes in the barrier used by the laborers, according to the Israeli military.
The spokesperson says five more suspects were arrested Tuesday evening, after officers noticed four individuals hiding in the bushes and waiting for a ride near Oranit, a West Bank settlement that sits on the Israeli side of the security barrier.
After the four got in a car with Israeli plates, police set up a flying checkpoint, which the driver crashed into while trying to make a quick turnaround.
The statement says an officer was lightly injured in the leg. It does not say how the injury occurred.
MK Uri Maklev claims that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has approved talks with unnamed parties within the coalition for the creation of a rotational government with Netanyahu, the former premier, at its head.
Maklev, of the opposition party United Torah Judaism, tells Ynet he doesn’t know the current state of talks, but claims they are taking place, adding to rampant speculation over the future of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s faltering government.
“I just know one thing, that Netanyahu himself said he won’t hold up the creation of an alternative government. He has also agreed to rotations. Regarding the question of who starts and who is guaranteeing it, there are no agreements,” the politician says, in comments that could be aimed at sowing suspicion and distrust to further destabilize the governing coalition.
Russian lawmakers have passed a bill that removes age limits for professional soldiers joining the military and could be a way for the Russian armed forces to expand recruitment.
The lower house of the Russian parliament passes the bill in all three readings to scrap an age limit of 40 for Russians signing their first voluntary military contracts.
The chair of the parliament’s defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, says the measure would make it easier to hire people with “in-demand specialisms.” A description of the bill on the parliament website indicates older recruits could be suited to operating precision weapons or serving in engineering or medical roles.
Russian authorities have said that only volunteer contract soldiers are being sent to fight in Ukraine, though they have acknowledged that some conscripts were drawn into the fighting by mistake in the early stages.
In recent years, the Russian military has increasingly relied on volunteers. All Russian men aged 18-27 must undergo one-year compulsory military service. Many avoid the draft through college deferments and other exemptions.
Iran used internal UN documents to evade and mislead the world body’s nuclear watchdog over 15 years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the report, Iranian officials secured access to International Atomic Energy Agency documents and circulated them among top officials involved in its nuclear program between 2004 and 2006, allowing them to prepare cover stories, falsify information and gain insight into what inspectors did and did not know.
“Iran could design answers that admit to what the IAEA already knows, give away information that it will likely discover on its own, and at the same time better hide what the IAEA does not yet know that Iran wants to keep that way,” David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, tells the newspaper.
The documents and accompanying notes in Persian were included in the trove of information Israel squirrelled away from Iran’s nuclear archive, according to WSJ.
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