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Friday, April 4, 2008

Fighting an imposed war on two fronts

Hizbullah prepares for war on two fronts when Israel next invades Lebanon

By Nasr Salem

There is open talk of impending war in Lebanon these days. Lebanese of many factions are speculating about potential scenarios for another war being waged on Hizbullah by Israel. These discussions concentrate on the question of when, rather than whether, such a war will erupt. However, despite the diversity of visions, they all agree about a large-scale war that will be more intense and destructive than the 34-day war against Hizbullah in summer 2006 that followed Hizbullah's operation on July 12, 2006, in which two Israeli soldiers were captured and three killed. Whenever it comes, this large-scale conflict will probably dwarf the previous war; it could well inflame the entire Middle East.

From Israel's standpoint, the rationale for such a war derives from the ignominious setbacks its army suffered during its confrontation with Hizbullah in southern Lebanon in 2006. Hizbullah shattered Israel's military thinking, which was based on employing a combination of state-of-the-art air-power, hi-technology weapons-systems and lightning attacks to overrun enemy posts or occupy vast swathes of enemy territory (or both). Hizbullah's tactical preparedness enabled it to use guided anti-tank missiles to destroy advancing Israeli tanks and to rain short- and intermediate-range missiles on Israeli targets throughout the war, despite the Israeli air force's apparently absolute dominance of the skies. Israel's much-vaunted Arrow missile program proved useless against these incoming low-flying missiles. Hizbullah fired a total of approximately 4,000 rockets at Israel during the 34-day war. It also destroyed at least one Israeli naval vessel, the INS Hanit, using an Iranian-made C-802 Noor guided missile. Another war, therefore, will seek not only to redeem the image and restore the diminished prestige of Israel's army, but also to eliminate the threat posed by Hizbullah, which not only managed to survive repeated Israeli aggression but has also managed since then to replenish its stores of arms and munitions.

The main lesson Israel derived from that war is that heavy dependence on air power and artillery bombardment cannot root out Hizbullah. Only a major conventional ground offensive might eliminate Hizbullah. So the war Israel is preparing to launch is likely to involve columns of tanks advancing northwards through the Beqa'a plateau along the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon. This will enable the invading troops to avoid having to make their way through the areas patrolled by the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) south of the Litani River in accordance with Security Council resolution 1701, which was the diplomatic means of ending the war of July-August 2006. Such a ground offensive, in which two or three reinforced armoured infantry divisions – between 30,000 and 45,000 troops – would take part, will certainly be accompanied by an intense campaign of airstrikes targeting Hizbullah positions and civilian areas where the party maintains wide popular support, such as the southern suburbs of Beirut, aiming to cause massive economic and human dislocations. Israeli planners could choose targets to suit various options ranging from limited air-strikes to a more comprehensive set of strikes against a wide array of targets. Supporting squads of special forces belonging to Israel's Sayaret or special ops, amphibious contingents, and specialised engineering units would try to infiltrate Hizbullah areas to destroy underground systems of tunnels and bunkers, missile and artillery positions, weapons-depots and vital installations.

With diplomatic support from the US, Britain and France, the UN Security Council would pass a resolution to expand UNIFIL's mandate to deploy forces along the Syrian-Lebanese border. The ultimate objective would be to cut off the lifeline supplying arms and ammunition to Hizbullah through Syria. UNIFIL, which is made up largely of troops belonging to NATO countries, is likely to be responsive to the interests of the US and its strategic Middle East ally, Israel, and will by no means be neutral with respect to Syria and Hizbullah.

The fighting will certainly be fierce. Unlike the regular Arab armies the Israeli army is used to routing in the battlefield, Hizbullah is a formidable adversary with an impressive record of military achievements. Over the past quarter of a century, Israel's experience of engaging Hizbullah fighters has been chastening and humbling, to say the least. Since the guns fell silent in August 2006, Hizbullah has been busy rehabilitating its armed wing and preparing for the next war. It has reportedly managed to replenish its stores with stockpiles of advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles and short-, intermediate- and long-range surface-to-surface missiles that are able to deliver larger payloads to targets deep inside Israel's borders. Thousands of fighters and new recruits have undergone intensive training as well.

Hizbullah's preparations are for a two-war scenario, in which it will find itself fighting, at the same time, both Israeli forces and Lebanese militias belonging to political factions affiliated with the pro-western government of Lebanese prime minister Fouad al-Siniora. The scenario posits that the Israeli assault will be coordinated with Lebanese pro-government militias that will move to control certain areas in Mount Liban and northern Lebanon, thus denying Hizbullah freedom of movement throughout the country and providing safe corridors and bridgeheads for invading Israeli troops. Over the past year, there has been a heated drive by both loyalist and opposition factions to arm themselves and train fighters in preparation for an impending internal war. Should such a scenario materialise, Hizbullah will concentrate on fighting the invading Israeli troops, whereas its allies in the Lebanese opposition will engage and attempt to crush the threat posed by pro-government militias.

An Israeli push into the Beqa'a valley will almost certainly provoke Syria to respond, thus igniting a major regional war. The Syrians have long been aware of the limitations of their army, with its ageing Soviet-era tankforce and old MIG and Sukhoi fighter jets, as well as of Israel's vulnerability to surface-to-surface missiles. That has led them since the 1990s to incorporate a North Korean element into their military thinking. This element is based on the utility of missile stockpiles as both a deterrent and an essential component of defence strategy. Syria has also learnt the lessons of the Hizbullah-led resistance in Lebanon and the Iraqi insurgency. Special units have been trained in the tactics of guerrilla warfare. These units can be mobilised if necessary to engage Israeli military formations with frontal hit-and-run attacks, to disrupt their supply lines and to harass their forces' positions behind the frontline and the theatre of operations.

Further complicating this scenario are indications that Israel is preparing for simultaneous wars against Syria and Iran. Israel might use Syria's entry into the war as a pretext to launch air-strikes against Iran's military, nuclear and other strategic installations, thus setting off retaliatory ballistic missile strikes against Israel and US military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf region. Without such Israeli bombardment against the Islamic Republic, Iranian troops might still be sent to fight alongside Syrian troops. Syria and Iran have signed a mutual defence agreement which commits the Islamic Republic to come to Syria's aid if it is subjected to military aggression.

This conflagration might eventually develop into a confrontation involving US troops. It is difficult to imagine an attack against Iran that does not have a direct effect on the anti-US resistance in Iraq. Iran could use its ties to some groups inside Iraq to initiate attacks directed against US troops stationed in the country. There is also the possibility that Iranian troops might cross the Iraq-Iran border and engage US troops inside Iraq. Were this to happen, the entire Middle East could be transformed into one enormous war zone.

None of all these preparations and planning means that such a broad Middle East war is inevitable. The war scenario, especially in its extreme version, might not come to pass. But in the light of the escalating tensions engulfing the region, it is certainly conceivable that US and Israeli military plans for all-out war on Hizbullah, Iran and Syria have reached an advanced stage of readiness. However, several factors work against the likelihood of direct US involvement in such a war. For one thing, the US is not in a position to fight another major war. US forces and military capabilities are already overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another war in the Middle East would drive up the already high price of crude oil and the soaring American deficits (the costs of Washington's misadventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to have reached a staggering $3,000 billion so far), with highly damaging consequences for the US economy. As for Israel, it is unlikely to win quickly, if at all, in another war against Hizbullah, whether it involved Syria and Iran or not, even if it marshals all the ground, sea and air components of its military juggernaut. A long-drawn-out war would limit Israel's ability to avoid casualties on a scale that would sap domestic support for the war. It is true that such limitations and uncertainties render any new Israeli military misadventure a highly perilous exercise for Israeli leaders and their blind supporters in the US government. But with such a crazed, arrogant, warmongering clique of decision-makers in Washington and Tel Aviv, who refuse to learn from history or their own experiences, it is always prudent to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

To err on the side of caution is the best form of far-sighted wisdom.

coutesy : muslimedia London / Toronto

1 comment:

AlLubnan said...

Why Hezbollah LOST the War in Lebanon!
And the Current 'Present' Situation in Southern Lebanon

By Gabriel al-Amin
Beirut, Lebanon

On July 12, 2006 Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers that led to Israel's war with them and, by extension, Lebanon itself. Hezbollah has been on Israel's fence since the latter's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Israel always requested from the international community and from the Lebanese government to deploy its Lebanese Army there instead of Hezbollah militants. Hezbollah, quite naturally, refused! Hezbollah vowed to NEVER allow any other force other than itself to occupy southern Lebanon. Even during the conflict, Hezbollah said it would never agree to allow either the Lebanese army nor international monitors to patrol southern Lebanon.

Then finally, when two IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers were kidnapped, Israel found the perfect excuse it was looking for to go into Lebanon and push Hezbollah well away from the Lebanese-Israel border. Israel pursued a limited invasion and killed over 500-600 Hezbollah members during the one month war. Additionally, Israel took over every single village in southern Lebanon. During the conflict even though Hezbollah received such a blow and all its members were freaked out and on the run. Yet when the hostilities ended, Hezbollah claimed victory! But did it really win?

Firstly, Israel agreed to a cessation of hostilities NOT because it surrendered and defeated militarily, but because of international pressure from the European Union and the United States. During this conflict Israel endured more international pressure, than it ever did in the past 10 years. Israel was put forth conditions and international agreements, such as the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers and 15,000 United Nations peace keepers into southern Lebanon, and arms embargo on Hizbollah. "This" proposal which was presented to Israel which EVEN Hzbollah agreed to accept, was something Israel was yearning for for many decades and was a once in a life time opportunity, it was a REAL "golden opportunity," even the far right in Israel said "this is an excellent proposal, so give it a shot." This cessation of hostilities, known as "The August Ceasefire", was initiated by the United Nations and International Community, and was put forward before both parties, Israel and Hzbollah, Hzbollah JUMPED right on the wagon to accept, because they saw it as the only way out of the mess they got themselves into. While at the same time, Israel was more stubborn on accept this ceasefire-agreement, since they were on a winning streak. Ever since then Hizbollah has not been seen or heard from in Southern Lebanon! At long last the frail Lebanese Government has finally had a degree of sovereignty over all of its state and is finally monitoring and guarding its own borders.

Not too long ago, nearly all television and print media images coming out of southern Lebanon were that of armed Hizbullah fighters with their guns, outposts, and banners. Not anymore! Hizbullah is now hiding under rocks in Southern Lebanon, its military might having received a substantial blow. In addition, Hizbullah is no longer enjoying the freedom and luxury of easily transferring Syrian/Iranian weaponry across the Lebanese-Syrian border or via the Beirut seaport. Much of this due to the combined efforts of a stronger Lebanese army and U.N. forces keeping a lid on such transferals.

But even though the International Troops and the Lebanese Army keep Hizbullah in check, isn't there still Hizullah presence in Southern Lebanon, EVEN THOUGH they are hiding "under rocks?" The same could be said for Al Qaeda presence in the United States, who are also hiding under rocks.

Hizbullah may portray themselves as fearsome "militants" but they are in fact cowards cowering behind Lebanese civilians. Yet, through mostly pin-point targeting, the IDF dealt a heavy blow to Hizbullah. Five to six hundred Hizbullah terrorists were killed and nearly all of their bases, headquarters and tactical infrastructure destroyed.

Some might say, "But didn’t Hezbullah manage to shoot over one hundred rockets into Israel every single day? AND why, during the war, didn't the Israel army/air-force ever manage to stop the Katyusha fire?" Well the answer to that would be "What's so impressive about groups of one or two rag heads pointing and setting off an unguided Katyusha southward into Israel?" In addition to the fact that Hezbullah only needed 1% of their military might in order to shoot Katyushas from their scattered fields and caves, into Israel every day. Plus, the only way to have completely stopped the Katyusha fire would have been to occupy every square inch of South Lebanon, including 20 miles north of the Litani, and to stay there for a few months. In the past 7 years, Israel wasn’t even able to curb the Palestinian Qassam rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel 'BADLY' miscalculated Hezbullah, those past 6 years since it withdrew from Lebanon. Why? Because in 2004, it was estimated that if Israel was to engage in war with Hezbullah, their Katyusha arsenal would result in 100 deaths per day on the Israeli side, but instead only 2 people per day were killed by those rockets. But during the war, Israel came to the realization that 99.9% of all those rocket attacks, mostly result in a lot of noise and broken windows. Prior to the war it was also estimated that if Israel launched a ground invasion, it would result in the deaths of over 70 Israeli soldiers per day, which would have left over 2000 dead on the IDF side at the end of the 34 day conflict. But only 120 soldiers were killed in total, which makes it 3-4 soldiers per day. Also, prior to the war AND during the war, both the ‘poor’ Israeli intelligence and Hezbullah itself even claimed, that the “Mighty Hezbullah Rocket Arsenal” would hit Tel-Aviv, but ‘no rocket ever made it to Tel-Aviv!’ Instead, Hezbullah, tried to send little remote controlled ‘toy’ planes there.

The reason 120 soldiers were killed in the first place, is because what would someone expect if an army deployed 30,000 soldiers squashed together in a small, tight, open space (South Lebanon)! It was amazing that after the war, those soldier didn't all suffer from cluster phobia. But even though Israel deployed so many soldiers in the open, Hezbullah didn't manage to deliver that harsh blow as was estimated before the ground invasion. But after all, Hezbullah didn't fight as courageous as the Egyptians during the Suez Canal invasion, nor as the Syrians during the war in the Golan heights.

It shouldn’t shock the world that Hizbollah bombed a couple Israeli Merkava Tanks, because even the Palestinians have done it in the past too. Blowing up a Merkava Tank is NOT an ‘uncommon’ operation. But at the same time Israel was still advancing and still taking over every village in South Lebanon, bombing every headquarter and outpost, all Hezbollah members were on the run. Even though Israel lost a couple of tanks and didn’t destroy Hezbollah, it still doesn’t mean they (Israel) were defeated militarily. The definition of military defeat, mean: to crush the other side, force it to flee and or be on the run, or force it into surrender. Israel was not defeated militarily!

The same can be said about the Israeli naval ship that was bombed by Hisbollah of the coast of Lebanon, during the first week of the conflict, which caused a tiny bit of damage to the ship and which resulted in the deaths of 4 Israeli naval soldiers. Once again this wasn’t a military defeat, but it was an internal flaw, which meant that; Israel needed a better anti missile naval detector radar, a better anti missile interceptor, and better armor for its ship. But did Hisbollah succeed in sinking the ship and destroying it completely, did they destroy all the Israeli naval ships of the Lebanon Coast, did Israel scurry away with all its ships with its tail in between its legs, or did Israel ask for a cease-fire? NO! Instead, Israel simultaneously the same day, brought the damaged ship back into Israel for repair and sent another ship to the Lebanon Coast to replace it.

During and after the war, Hisbollah regretted starting the war in the first place, by kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers. But Israel on the other hand, didn’t regret going to war with Hisbollah, not even 1%. In fact Israel was ready to go for round two, but Hisbollah, will not dare even consider thinking about it.

During the fighting, many people (both inside and outside Lebanon) finally saw Hezbollah as they really are... a terrorist group. It's strategy had little or no military value. The rockets they launched were intended to cause terror among Israel's citizenry. They were not aimed at Israel military targets.

Israel never managed to destroy Hisbollah. As much as the IDF might have wanted to, the wiping out of Hisbollah was not Israel's goal. Nor could it ever be its goal. It is against the laws of physics to destroy a guerilla/terrorist group (America is learning it the hard way with Al Qaeda) since their operatives and members are always blending in and out of the civilian populations from which they so cowardly operate. In fact NEVER in history has a guerilla group ever been destroyed.

Additionally, rescuing the kidnapped IDF soldiers without a strong intelligence as to exactly where they were hidden, would have been a nearly impossible mission, assuming they had not already been secreted out of Lebanon into Syria or Iran!

We constantly hear phrases such "Hezb’allah emerged stronger," "Hezb’ollah is now stronger than ever," or "Hezb’allah is now seen stronger than before!" There is some truth to that. Since before the Israeli withdrawal of 2000, Hezb’allah was seen as more of a small arms, home made explosive, cut and run group, but during this conflict they were able to show off their Iranian made weapons. But they were no match for the Israeli army, whom they bowed down to at the end, by feeling too threatened to attack and provoke ever again.

When the United Nations wanted to impose a 48-hour ceasefire, it was Hezb’allah which rushed to accept while Israel had to be pressured. Obviously this was because Israel had the military momentum in her favor. And when the month-long conflict ended, Hezb’allah leader, Nasrallah, remained in an underground bunker, no longer enjoying frequent visits to central Beirut, giving daily "Hate Israel" speeches, driving down to his home town of southern Lebanon or enjoying first class flights to Damascus and Tehran. Nasrallah even admitted that had he known that even one percent of this war would have gone as it had, he would have NEVER kidnapped the soldiers and thus started the war!

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.” - Hezbollah Leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, August 27, 2006

In February 2007, there was a skirmish between Israeli troops and the Lebanese army on the Israel/Lebanon border, even though this skirmish that resulted in a shoot out and was unfortunate, the ray of light from all this, was that Israel was confronted and attacked by the Lebanese army and not by Hizb’ollah. This was one of the first signs that showed that the Lebanese army was doing its job. This was mostly due to the fact that Hizb’allah lost its kingdom in Southern Lebanon, and is NOW in constant check by UNIFL, Lebanese Army, and International Troops. At least the Lebanese army was able to stand its ground and take control, unlike BEFORE the August 11 ceasefire! At least Israel finally got its wish, after 40 years, to FINALLY have the Lebanese army in control of the border. Since August 11, 2006 when the Lebanese army began its deployment in Southern Lebanon, not a single Katuysha, let alone a singe bullet was fired toward the Israeli side of the fence by Hizb’allah. Unlike after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, when Hizb’allah would look for any excuse to shoot Katyushas into Israel at least once every three months, but not anymore. No longer will the Israeli citizens of Northern Israel will ever live in fear once again!

People in the Lebanese Government now hate Hizb’allah, for bringing destruction to Lebanon. All of Hizballah's southern Beirut strong posts were destroyed by Israel. Even after the cease fire, Israel stayed in Lebanon for two more months in order to destroy all remaining Hizb’allah outposts and bunkers while Hezballah stood by and did nothing. During the conflict some of the Israel/Lebanon border fence was destroyed and torn down, and Israel was in no rush to fix it, since what's the point? Hezballah will not want to mess with the IDF again! Even until today some of that fence has not been fixed yet, since the only threat of infiltration, now, is from drug dealers smuggling Hashish across that border.

But what about the Winograd Commission, "which is an independent Israeli government-appointed commission of inquiry, chaired by retired Israeli chief judge Eliyahu Winograd, which is set out to investigate and draw lessons from the failures experienced by Israel during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Which resulted in a war panel, and even the resignation of high figures such as the Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz." The reason THIS is currently taking place in Israel, is it goes to show that Israel is a democratic country! If a "Lebanese-Winograd Commission" would be done to Hezballah; for launching an illogical irresponsible attack on Israel, by kidnapping the two soldiers which led to the war and the destruction of Lebanon. And if a Lebanese Winnograd Commission would be done to the Lebanese government; for not controlling its southern border by allowing thuggish armed militias (Hezballah) to roam free there, allowing illegal weapon shipments via the Lebanese seaport, air port, and Syrian Lebanese border to those armed "non-governmental" militias, and allowing Syria and Iran to meddle in its politics, then Lebanon would crumble to dust! But after all, Lebanon is not a Democracy.

Worst case scenario, the Winograd Commission and some of the failures of this war, prove, that Israel might have been defeated from within, but not militarily.

Furthermore there hasn't been one complaint filed against Hezballah on behalf of UNIFL and the International Troops since last year's August cease-fire, the only complaint filed, was against the Israeli army for their over flights over Lebanese territory. Speaking about Israeli over flights, even the Israeli army itself, hasn't complained even once, about hostile enemy fire against its planes by Hezballah. Since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, up until the war last summer, they continued their daily over flight and breaches over Lebanese territory, only to find themselves being confronted by Hizballah anti-aircraft artillery. But after the August cease-fire Israel 'STILL' continued its breaches over Lebanese airspace, but this time, Hizballah hasn't even shot one pellet at them! Maybe because they are deterred and maybe because UNIFL and the Lebanese army are now in control.

After the war, Hizb’allah saw that it could no longer push around and bully Israel, and are therefore now trying to bully the "weak" Lebanese government by; their mass demonstration, camping out in front of the Lebanese Parliament, and political assassinations.

Israel did loose the war last summer, but not in Lebanon, but instead in Gaza. After Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, Israel began a massive military campaign in Gaza, destroying infrastructure, entering towns and cities, going after terrorists, and also trying to stop the Qassam rocket fire. But instead, all it achieved was nothing, and the results of it were, that now, the Palestinians saw even more of a weakness in Israel. After the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon, deterrence was at least achieved, BUT unlike in Gaza, after the massive military campaign took place there (Gaza), the Israeli deterrence was lost for good, and now, the Palestinians are, even, more UNDETERRED from Israel that ever! And therefore have increased their rocket fire into Israel. In addition to the fact that as soon as Israel stopped its military campaign, Hamas and other groups said, "They are now even more determined than ever to kidnap another Israeli Soldier." In April of 2007, they acted on their promise, under the cover of intense rocket fire on the Israel town of Sderot, Hamas terrorists again attempted to infiltrate Israel in order to abduct another soldier, but failed. A month later the militant group Islamic Jihad successfully infiltrated Israel, to also try to kidnap an Israeli soldier, but also failed. At least they weren't afraid to try!

After the war some Arab Governments, including the Palestinians, claimed Hizb’ullah achieved a divine victory! But hey, lets not forget, that some of those Arab governments and Palestinians which claimed Hizb’ullah won that "divine victory," are some of those "same" Arab governments who "STILL" until today claim that Syria, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab World won the 1967 War and the 1973 War! That is why after this war Israel lost its deterrence against the Palestinians, Iran, and Syria. BUT gained heavily, its deterrence, against Hezbolah.


People from around the world, before the August cease-fire, would have never believed nor imagined that the Lebanese army would EVER be in control of its southern border. Nor, people would have never believed Lebanon would EVER be able to establish control over "illegal" arms shipments across its Lebanese/Syrian border, sea ports, and airports, and, well, it finally is!

Hezbolah will most likely never dare kidnap IDF soldiers because they saw the might and strength of the Israeli army, and they now feel threatened. Sure, some Hezbulah sympathizers may throw rocks, wave Hezbulah flags or scream "Allah Akbar" at the Lebanese-Israeli border fence but Hezbulah rank and file are laying low. Very low! And Hezbellah is no longer the imminent threat at that very same border.

Since the 'moment' the two soldiers were kidnapped and even during the war, Israel knew, they would not succeed in getting them back, in addition to the fact that destroying a guerilla group is against the laws of physics! Once people will get those two facts into their heads, then THEY will realize that, the outcomes that were achieved as a result of this conflict, were the best possible "REALISTIC" outcomes that Israel could have achieved.

Obviously this past year, the Northern Israeli border has been the quietest it has ever been over the past 40 years.

By, Gabriel AlAmin
Beirut, Lebanon

Articles and Refernces:

UNIFL: Not 'ONE' complaint filed against Hezbollah since last years cease-fire
(Jerusalem Post 6/14/2007)

Again, Israeli gloom is misplaced (First Post - 4/17/2007)

Lebanese army, UNIFIL are keeping Hezbollah in check (Haaretz - 2/21/2007)

Hezbollah's 'Victory'? (Washington Post 9/1/2006)

The Lebanese Winnograd Commission (Thomas Friedman, New York Times 5/10/2007)

The Egyptian, 1973 October Victory (Egyptian State Information Service)

Lebanon’s Army Chief “the Lebanese Army is properly controlling its borders with Syria” ( [Hizbollah’s Official Website])

Bin Laden criticizes Nasrallah for allowing expansion of UNIFL troops (GulfNews December 30, 2007)

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