Opinion: Who are the terrorists?


This sign held by a Palestinian child at a demonstration sums up the context and background of the present conflict in Gaza that has also led to violence and loss of life in the West Bank.

This simple summary of the oppressive behaviour of the Israeli government shows how it amounts to State Terrorism.  Western governments are reluctant to recognise this for what it is and our own political leaders (Cameron, Hammond, Miliband – and even our own Nick Clegg who has been much quieter than he was during the Cast Lead invasion of 2008) usually qualify any criticism of Israel with a statement that Israel has the right to defend itself, i.e. they accept at best the “justified but disproportionate” paradigm which is frankly indefensible.

Our governments have allowed Israel the means to maintain an illegal and oppressive control over Palestine.  They have refused to put economic and other pressures on Israel to change its behaviour.  They ignore the words of leaders of liberal organisations (Yachad, Jewish Voice for Peace, New Israel Fund etc.) or of liberally minded journalists in Israel (Haaretz) and other Jewish commentators like Professor Avi Shlaim and Henry Siegman, and accept the propaganda coming from Israel’s far right politicians, who they wouldn’t even talk to if they were active in the UK.

Hamas may be a terrorist organisation.  I wish it hadn’t launched its recent attack on Israel – partly because I abhor violence of any kind, especially when it is directed at civilians.  But also because the collective punishment of Palestinians (roundly condemned by Jews for Justice for Palestinians) following the killing of the young settlers was accelerating the turn in public opinion against the Israeli government.  Yet I do understand the frustration that led Hamas  take the steps it has done.  Its demands for stopping the violence, starting with the lifting of the blockade of Gaza, are entirely reasonable. I wish Hamas would amend its charter and take out the offensive language about eradicating Israel from the map.  But Hamas has sent strong signals of recognition of Israel, notably its willingness to join the Unity Government with Fatah which assumed Israel’s right to exist.

Many commentators have suggested that killing off the Unity Government is Israel’s main concern at this time as the rockets are easily destroyed. So we seem to have two terrorist organisations slugging it out.  The IDF which had killed over 60 people – many of them teenagers – in the year up to the latest outbreak of war and continues to kill West Bank demonstrators as well as Gazans.  Some of these were shot by snipers in cold blood – sometimes even witnessed by foreign TV crews.  Breaking into houses and carrying out arrests under cover of darkness by the IDF is commonplace – often again of teenagers, accompanied by an unjust system of military justice for Palestinians. ( See Reuter’s reference to the June 2013 report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child).  There is frequent violence by settlers (who are living on Palestinian land illegally anyway) against Palestinians under the protection of the IDF.  The list goes on.

So it would be good to see our political leaders acknowledging the “state terrorism” of Israel each time they refer to Hamas as a terrorist organisation.  It would be good to see them talking about the right of Palestinians to defend themselves when they too are attacked.

Any remaining American credibility in all this has gone.  Senator Kerry last week was describing the Israeli response as appropriate and proportionate!  The American Senate voted unanimously in support of the Israeli invasion.  It’s time for European political leaders to say they don’t agree and let truly independent voices strive to bring about negotiations between Israel on the one side and the Fatah/Hamas Unity Government on the other.  We should signal that if Israel continues to obstruct peace we will go ahead and recognise Palestine anyway by the end of this year.

And we should ask Vince Cable why he doesn’t exercise his powers over export licences to block all future arms sales to Israel – at least until Israel has signed a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

* John Kelly is Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and active in Warwick District Lib Dems.

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  • Careful no doubt any expressions of sympathy for the Palestinians will led us to being labelled as anti-Semitic by one party member who has been given a platform by the Spectator.

  • Historically Who is to Blame The UK for fighting for a Jewish state back in 20s Then since WW2 the American unreservedly backing and bank rolling Israel So could be solved but not the UK and more so Not the USA will force a solution so sad more children will be damaged in every way for years and years to come

  • Thank you John for putting it so clearly and thank you that child for telling how it is on the banner.
    Our political leaders are restrained by the lobby, which attacks anyone who speaks out against Israel, as I and David Ward,can bear witness to.
    Times are changing however.
    All over Europe people are showing massive support for Palestine and Haaretz newspaper this morning, carries a brilliant piece about how Kerry and Obama are losing patience with Netanyahu, who is frankly behaving like a psychopath and encouraging all his spokesmen to tell lies on his behalf.
    Jewish people here, are quite rightly worried about the rise in anti Semitic incidents,the reason being that many people do not distinguish between ‘Israel’ and Jewish people and so they get blamed too.
    The government of Israel is the cause of the rise in anti Semitism. Look no further.

  • A Social Liberal 29th Jul '14 - 12:16pm

    Perhaps a little Israeli child should hold up a similar placard, something like this . . . .

    “You tried to kill us at the inception of our country. You murder our athletes when they represent our country abroad. You murder our diplomats and their families. You murder our university students and our children going to school on buses. You kill our people when they are flying to their holiday destination, when they are sailing on holiday and when they are returning home from holiday. You don’teven care about your own people. You force children to strap explosives to themselves and blow up soldiers, you fire rockets next to schools, hospitals and mosques – knowing they will be returning fire. You won’t build your people bunkers to protect them when our soldiers go to find and destroy your rockets.
    We had to build a wall to stop you killing us. We had to prevent you coming into our country to protect ourselves and you still kill our people and your people and still try and blame us.”

  • Sally Snyder 29th Jul '14 - 12:39pm

    Here is an article that looks at the source of the pro-Israeli talking points:


    We now know why so many interviews with representatives of the Israeli government sound like they are coming from the mouths of American politicians.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jul '14 - 12:54pm

    I’m against Zionism and Islamism, but why does the prejudiced left only appear to be against Zionism? They try to make Hamas out to not be very bad, but this morning I came across a clip of its leader disagreeing that Israel (not Jews) had a right to exist. Here it is:


    So first of all people should not try to paint Hamas into some kind of benevolent almost liberal minded organisation, but secondly, can someone explain why Palestine has a right to exist, but Israel doesn’t? There is a sensible debate to be had in the second part of my question, but we need to do away with trying to abandon logic and appealing to broken hearts.

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Jul '14 - 1:06pm

    “1 – Enforce an immediate end to the fighting with both Israel and the Palestinians put on notice that any hostilities by either side would be immediately neutralized by whatever degree of overwhelming force was necessary.”

    So, next time Hamas lob some more of their contemptible rockets, it’ll be the US instead of Israel that pounds the homes of the poor bloody Palestinians? I understand the desire to just say “For pity’s sake, just stop it or I’ll crack your heads together!”, but all it really amounts to is the same tired old thing, I’m afraid, and it’s not going to work just because you believe your motives to be better.

  • A Social Liberal 29th Jul '14 - 1:33pm

    Sorry John, but your plan is untenable because the PA would not countenance their losing so much control. Force it and HAMAS would turn on any such force, try to use that overwhelming force to punish Palestinians and the same would happen.
    The Palestinians and the arabs would not allow the US to run the show as they are seen as being too close to the Israelis, the Israelis would not accept Russia since they helped train and arm Israels enemies. Arabs could not be trusted and Europeans do not have the armed forces any more.

  • Richard Norris 29th Jul '14 - 1:42pm

    Well said! Who will actually do something to bring the Israeli government to its senses? In reply to an article last week on the behaviour of Israel i said that all that is needed is the credible threat by the United States to suspend or withdraw all further financial and miltary aid to Israel in order for the latter to become reasonable. Will this ever come about?

  • mike clements 29th Jul '14 - 1:54pm

    It is sad that our government (and others) seem afflicted by tunnel vision, failing to appreciate the series of injustices imposed on the Arabs since 1947. We in the West do not like Hamas and the majority ordinary citizens in Gaza probably dislike them too but nevertheless support them for no better reason than desperation. Hamas are no angels but neither is the Israeli leadership and two wrongs do not make a right ! Our first priority must be to stop the killing of non-combatant ordinary men, women and children and the collateral damage to survivors who lose so much. Therefore as a nation we should support the Palestinians in their struggle for dignity, justice and survival .

  • The reason nothing has been done is because all the main parties fear the Israeli lobby and Israel knows that no matter how many Palestinians they kill, how many war crimes they commit, nothing will be done – look at Nick Cleggs rather pathetic response to Israeli atrocities going on in Gaza as further evidence of this.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Jul '14 - 2:56pm

    As to the sticking point of “Israel’s right to exist”, it depends what you mean by the phrase. If the meaning is restricted to mean Israel as it presently operates, I think its right to exist is comparable to that of apartheid-era South Africa.

  • I’ve long since concluded that anyone who tries to make a uniquely one-sided argument attacking either Israel or Palestine either has no interest in actually seeing peace or is simply remarkably stupid.

    It is right to criticise the actions of Israel in Gaza at the moment, but asking “who are the terrorists?” followed by “Hamas may be a terrorist organisation… but…” is the tactic of someone who seems to think the only way to criticise one side is to excuse the other.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Jul '14 - 3:44pm

    Joe: “On Israel’s right to exist: if you dispute this how can you accept any peace?”
    By arguing that Israel has to change to operating in such a way that it deserves to exist; which of course would have to be part of peace negotiations.

    I do support pressure on Hamas as well as on Israel to accept a peaceful solution. I still think that the two-state solution generally considered is a poor second-best – did anyone think Bantustans were the solution to apartheid? – but perhaps it’s the only option for now.

    e best solution would be one state, but that would

  • As an aside, the message on the Palestinian child’s placard may have its origins a little closer to home.

    The following photograph was supposedly taken at Hyde Park Corner in February 2009 :-


    Websites which published the picture at the time identified the man holding the placard as a “member of the British Parliament”. I don’t know if that’s true or not since I don’t recognise him.

    Curiously, this picture resurfaced in 2012, at which time it went somewhat viral and was said to show “an old man in Gaza” (even though the duffel coat and swanky building in the background don’t look very Gazan) and went somewhat viral. Heathcote Williams even wrote a poem inspired by it called “An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza”.

  • Joe Otten – nobody in this chain of comments has questioned Israel’s right to exist. Sally Fitzharris has quoted Meshaal’s clear views on this. His demands to stop the present (almost completely ineffectual) violence are entirely reasonable – most important being to lift the blockade. I personally believe most Gazans and most Israelis crave for peace and I believe Hamas does on reasonable terms. The Netanyahu government is out of control – even American control. America has created or at least fuelled monsters before – remember Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

    The Saudi peace plan of 2002 sounded pretty good to me -recognition by the Arab world of Israel within 67 borders. Sadly Israel rejected it.

    For once I agree with a point made by Social Liberal! America has lost all credibility in the Arab world on this issue. Britain has little more because of its incompetent colonial past in the region and the Bush/Blair war in Iraq. This is really a job for the UN.

  • I am so angry with what is going on in Gaza that I am thinking of going there and standing before an Israeli tank and saying if you want to shoot somebody, shoot me, not old men, women and children.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jul '14 - 4:30pm

    I’m no longer interested in people’s reasons for believing whether or not Israel has a right to exist. The state is there and jews and muslims should learn how to co-exist with each other in the region. Lib Dem Friends of Israel support the Zionists and Lib Dem Friends of Palestine support the Islamists so we should abolish them both, as someone recently said.

    I would prefer a more intellectual debate, but we need to get the basics right first, which this article doesn’t get because it manages to see all the bad in Israel, but hardly any of the bad in Hamas.

  • Steve Coltman 29th Jul '14 - 5:04pm

    Patrick Kelly – I don’t think there is any point I trying to force Israel using military might. There will not be any volunteers among the UN countries for sending military forces to shoot down Israeli aircraft or to fight with HAMAS inside Gaza to destroy HAMAS’s tunnels etc. No country would volunteer it’s army, navy and air force for such a mission.

  • @Joe Otten and others

    The problem with saying both sides are to blame is that it gives the impression that both sides are 50% responsible. When one side is 95% responsible it is more of a gross misrepresentation to say that both sides are responsible than it is to emphasise the role of the nation with the majority of the guilt.

  • Why not return to the Camp David Talks of 2000 under Bill Clinton?

    HAMAS could undertake the following:
    1. Fire and store all rockets 1km away from human habitation.
    2.Spend money on bomb shelters rather than tunnels into Israel.
    3.. All military buildings to be 1 km away from civilian centres.

    This would greatly reduce civilian casualties.

  • We like to believe that all problems have solutions, but what if these two ‘tribes’, simple cannot and *will not* co-exist? We ask the reasonable question, ‘What ought to happen to resolve this?’, but if it can’t be resolved, we are left to discern how events and time will play out, not so much to a desired solution, but to guess at an inevitable outcome.
    I have no idea of the timescale, but I believe the outcome will be the demise of Israel as an entity. I do not say this demise is deserved by Israel, simply that it can be the only coherent rational outcome, given the intractability of this predicament. I suspect two things will bring on this demise :
    1. External funding and support for Israel
    2. The internal demographics of Israel over time.
    1. As an entity, Israel is a very wealthy State, nevertheless it’s viability and ‘buoyancy’, is in part held afloat by financial support from the US. But US patience is wearing thin, and the world and US in particular, is increasingly ‘strapped for cash’, and will find it harder over time to justify helping Israel to ‘keep afloat’. As an analogy, I draw attention to a collapsing Soviet Union. They did not want to let Cuba go, but they simply could not afford to ‘help out’ any more. As the US empire becomes less influential and poorer, Israel will be ‘let go’.
    2. The original Jews that took on that strip of land, and called it home are now boomers. Understandably, they set their roots, called it home, and have a desire to protect and defend ~ that which they have invested their souls in, and call home. They feel they are in a battle for survival, and perhaps they are? But what of the 20 something’s? Young Jews who have seen their boomer parents have no real peace in that strip of land for 50 years. Are they as viscerally connected to that strip of land in the same way as their boomer parents? I suspect not. I believe that for the 20~30 year olds, intelligence will outplay the visceral connection with a strip of land that has zero prospect of security. The young, educated and with mobile skills, will rationally seek peace for themselves and their families elsewhere in the world, and leave Israel to wither on the vine of boomer demographics.
    If you take emotion and the ‘rights and wrongs’ perpetrated by both ‘tribes’, out of the equation, I think Israel has no long term future.?

  • Tony Dawson 29th Jul '14 - 8:41pm

    @Eddie Sammon:

    ” can someone explain why Palestine has a right to exist, but Israel doesn’t? ”

    No state has a right to exist. States are transitory organisations of people. Tell me of ANY state which has existed for 500 years. States exist for as long as the people within it (and those outside it) tolerate them.

    PEOPLE have rights.

    That guy who is in the Youtube has a few good points but he is so TOTALLY up himself that there is little chance of him ever influencing anybody.

  • Tony Dawson 29th Jul '14 - 8:57pm

    @A Social Liberal :

    ” the Israelis would not accept Russia since they helped train and arm Israels enemies”

    The state of Israel could never have been created without the power of the Soviets, most of whom were Russians, who supplied masses of crucial armaments to the terrorists in 1948 through Czechoslovakia. Of course the reason why the Russians were so active in wanting to set up a state in other people’s land to suck all the Jewish people out of Europe is that over the centuries, besides the Nazis there has possibly never been a nation more fundamentally anti-semitic than the Russians.

  • Stephen Donnelly 29th Jul '14 - 10:59pm

    Another article that takes sides. Liberals should not do that. We should argue in favour of civil liberties for all, encourage both parties to refrain from violence, and seek peace. We have no other role in other people’s wars.

  • A Social Liberal 29th Jul '14 - 11:30pm

    John Kelly misrepresents my view, and John Mc Hugo’s comments are not my view either. The UN cannot be the driving force behind peacekeeping in the Gaza as most constituent members do not have the necessary drive to do the right thing or politics will get in the way. For example the Southern Irish were for a long time the peacekeepers on the Israel Lebanon border. They were placed there in order for the Israeli 10 mile deep sterile zone to be removed. They did not have the will to prevent Hezbollah raiding and firing missiles into Israel (whether it was political or military based I don’t know). It was so bad that Hezbollah were able to set up a series of tunnels with firing points just metres from UN installations.

    What is needed, in my opinion, is a UN policing force which recruits directly rather than relying on the armed forces of member states. Whilst autonomous from the UN (and therefore from political manipulation) they will be given missions from the UN and then, after the RoE is set in place, left to get on with it. This does not mean they get a free hand, they will still be answerable under international law

  • A Social Liberal – “Perhaps a little Israeli child should hold up a similar placard…”

    But this isn’t about Hamas. I don’t think anyone on this thread has declared unequivocal support for everything Hamas has done. John Kelly certainly hasn’t, and I would echo his balanced criticism.

    It’s about Israel. It’s about the far greater evil that is being done by Israel. It is an evil that must be named as such. It is an evil that must be clearly ascribed to Netanyahu and his government – and not to a people or a race.

    Gaza has one power station. Today Israel blew it up. What does Israel see as the future of Gaza? It seems that Israel is determined not merely to subjugate the Palestinians, but to drive them into the sea.

    John Kerry has been roundly criticised above. It is possible to defend Kerry. It is possible for the US to believe that only by adopting the “critical friend” posture do they stand a chance of influencing Israel’s behaviour. It is possible to believe that the US administration are sincere in their expressed desire for peace and (a measure of) justice.

    All the more reason why the rest of us, who have the freedom to speak out against moral evil, should exercise that freedom.

  • John Dunn
    Support for Israel is growing srtonger in the US.
    Prospects for young educated Israelis are very good in Israel.Plenty of innovation going on there.
    A better idea is for Hammas to stop firing the rockets.

    Israel is not going to lift the blockade and allow Hammas to import heavy weapons.
    The only real solution is to put Gaza under UN control but this would be very difficult to achieve.

    Remember the civil war in Lebanon dragged on for 15 years with an equal amount of suffering.
    Guess who started that off?

  • @David Allen
    “It’s about Israel. It’s about the far greater evil that is being done by Israel.”

    If you measure evil in the number of dead bodies, including civilians, then you are right that the far greater evil is being done by Israel. But in terms of evil intent, Hamas are every bit as bad, if not more so. Israel kill more people only because they have bigger and better bombs. So while you do have a point, it simply won’t wash to say it is solely about Israel.

    “Gaza has one power station. Today Israel blew it up.”

    Terrible though that is, it’s worth noting that Gaza gets 70% of its power directly through power lines, mostly from Israeli power stations (with a little of it coming from Egypt). And you know what Hamas did on July 13th? They fired rockets at one of these power lines and blew it up. So it appear that Hamas have as little regard for their fellow Gazan’s power supplies as Israel does.

    Both sides are as bad as each other, and always have been.

  • Lord Alderdice (Lib Dem Convenor in the Lords) was interviewed on the Today programme this morning at 0755 and spoke about his recent meeting with Khalid Meshaal and, drawing analogies with Northern Ireland, strongly advocates dialogue with Hamas. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04brj7x

    For a moving account of the human cost of Israel’s merciless assault on Gaza the story of University of Sheffield student Malaka Mohammed will move all but the most hardened to weep. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/28/palestinian-student-malaka-shwaikh-family-gaza_n_5629252.html?+Education=&ir=UK+Universities+

  • It is being reported that the kidnap/murder of the three Israeli teenagers was not the work of Hamas, and that Israeli intelligence was aware of that from the beginning,.
    If this was indeed the case then one wonders what the initial reprisals were all about; unless it was to ensure that, by steady escallation, this all-out attack on Hamas’s infrastructure was inevitable….

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jul '14 - 12:10pm

    Hi Tony, I agree no state has a “right” to exist, I was just criticising the way the pro Palestine side seem to make out that history began in 1948. However, I’m not taking sides in this conflict.

    When it comes to that Youtuber. I don’t go there for serious analysis, it’s just more of a US liberal site that I find quite entertaining.

  • Julian Tisi 30th Jul '14 - 1:59pm

    @ Stephen Donnelly “Another article that takes sides. Liberals should not do that.”

    Seriously? What on earth are we here for, if not to take sides against oppression and injustice wherever it’s found. I think this is an excellent article. In the face of the Israeli government’s indiscriminate attacks on Gaza citizens we need to point this out and convince our governments to do something about it. I’m ashamed by the silence and cowardice of American and European leaders so afraid of being seen to take sides who by their silence or weak language allow this oppression to continue.

    I hope there is a world leader out there who would be willing – finally – to do something about Israel and shun them diplomatically. But I don’t see it happening any time soon.

  • Lib Dem Candidate 30th Jul '14 - 3:29pm

    John Kelly rightly lists Yachad as a group that we should listen to, so here is a recent article by Yachad: http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/120862/time-reward-moderation. Here also is an article about this by Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan: http://www.thejc.com/node/120792

  • A Social Liberal 31st Jul '14 - 1:17am

    It isn’t often I agree with Col Kemp but this time, in the article linked to by Lib Dem Candidate, he is right on the money.

    Note when he says “Israel’s responses have been lawful under the Geneva Conventions. Every IDF air attack is designed to destroy military objectives while minimizing civilian casualties. But with Hamas’s way of fighting, such casualties, tragically, are unavoidable.”

    Note also when he says, “Firing rockets at civilians and using human shields are not the only war crimes Hamas have committed and planned. They have used protected locations and vehicles — schools, mosques, hospitals, ambulances — to store munitions and facilitate attacks.

    They have constructed attack tunnels to massacre civilians and equipped them to abduct, drug and bind innocent Israelis. They have breached agreed humanitarian cease-fires intended to bring respite and relief to their suffering civilians.

    Though not specifically a war crime, Hamas have also been using child “soldiers” to attack IDF troops. These tactics are only too familiar to British soldiers because they are used extensively by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

    This is a man who has in depth knowledge of the Geneva Conventions, he had to have this knowledge because he had the ultimate responsibility of having those conventions taught to his troops in order that they would not transgress international law. As such, I do not understand how anyone can uncritically support the war crimes of Hamas in the way that some on here are doing.

  • A Social Liberal 31st Jul '14 - 1:38am

    Just so you are under no misapprehension about exactly what Hamas is doing – take a look at the photograph at the beginning of this paper on HAMAS’ previous culpability in the last Gaza war. Note the military and terrorist camps and military hardware deliberately placed round schools, mosques and hospitals. As then, so now !


  • “Every IDF air attack is designed to destroy military objectives while minimizing civilian casualties.”

    Yeah, firing tank shells from a safe, heavily armoured vehicle at a school where you know there are children sheltering is a aimed at minimizing civilian casualties in an attack on a military target. I can’t say what I really think about your post because I find it so offensive to reasoning and humanity.

  • Well said, Julian Tisi.

  • A Social Liberal 31st Jul '14 - 11:51am

    Steve, with all due respect – what the hell do you know about fighting an asymmetric action in an armoured vehicle. I doubt you have even sat in tank, so how do you have the authority to make the comments that you do. You have been given an article written by an honourable man whose knowledge on the subject he has written about is vast. Col Kemp was one of the Joint Intelligence Committees advisors less than 10 years ago, he sat on the COBR committee. It was Col Kemp who set up and headed a multi national task force which carried out counter terrorism operations. It was a doctrine set up by Kemp which to a very large extent nullified suicide bombings against military personnel in Afghanistan.

    On Gaza, he has testified before the UN fact finding mission on past Gaza wars and has made presentations to the UN Human Rights Council. This man is an expert on this subject Not only this, but he sits on the board of an NGO called Advancing Human Rights.

    You have never been in a conflict zone, Colonel Kemp not only has worn the tee shirt – he designed it!

  • A Social Liberal 31st Jul '14 - 11:52am

    I apologise

    My comment above was to Steve

  • @A ‘Social Liberal’
    With respect, what do you know that informs you to make a judgement that someone in the safety of a heavily armoured tank firing shells at a school they know to be sheltering sleeping refugees is not the biggest act of cowardice by war criminals? The Israelis were told 17 times that there were children in the school. They were told the precise location of the school. The UN considers it a war crime.


  • @A Social Liberal
    Here is what Paddy Ashdown has said on twitter. “Firing missiles without any care for civilians (Hamas) is a crime. So is firing missiles without sufficient care for civilians (Israel).”. So, he thinks that (a) Israel are firing missiles without sufficient care for civilians and that it is (b) a crime. Not that it has any actual bearing on the argument but he has spent time in action with the Marines and SBS if that keeps you happy.

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