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The Forces of Defense of Israel
Forces of Defense of Israel (FDI)

The Forces of Defense of Israel

Israel will never be able to lodge the hope to compare his potential enemies in human resources terms. He is not a member of any military alliance; on the other hand, he has not asked, will never ask, foreign forces to come to his rescue. The strict adherence to the motto "we will not allow North American young people to defend Israel" it was supported up to the War of the Persian Gulf, when the United States sent an endowment together with the missiles Patriot

To face the numerical difference with his potential enemies, the Forces of Defense of Israel (FDI) have been provided with a number of factors: full use of the existing human resources by means of the universal and obligatory conscription of both sexes for relatively long periods; the reservations; the qualitative advantage of the Israeli labor; the superiority of the teams, any time it is possible; and, finally but not less important, the factor surprise, both in doctrine and in tactics and warlike material. 


The conscription understands at present all the healthy persons on having fulfilled 18 years of age: three years for the men and two for the women. 

It are done exepciones for the students of yeshivot (religious seminars), which mobilization can be postponed by the time that his studies last. According to the last survey, the number of such postponements represents approximately 6 % of those who are 18 years of age. This has been a perennial topic of political discussion, but the norm persists. 

The FDI can agree a postponement in accordance with its own initiative, when a student dedicates a topic of particular interest. This way, a medicine student can finish first his studies and then expire with his obligatory service in the Medical Body; similarmente, every year postpones the service of a number of future engineers, technical staff, lawyers, psychologists, economists, etc., until they finish his studies. Also a few outstanding students select the FDI every year in the exact sciences, who will complete simultaneously a shorter special academic program, which culminates with a grade of B.S. and training for officials; they promise to serve subsequently a major number of years, principally in the investigation and the armament development. 

The new immigrants are not recruited for his first year in the country, unless they resign from the postponement. Many of them take the latter option. The military service for the newly arrived persons, jointly with others that take several years in the country, has demonstrated to be an excellent tool for the success in the integration. 

The national minorities are exempt from the service, with the exception of the Druzes. The leaders Druzes decided long ago to share his luck with the east been Jewish and, how allegiance sample, they resigned voluntarily from the exception to which they had right. Some Bedouin tribes take the voluntary service as a tradition, principally like trackers, an art in which they have stood out for many generations. 

The period of service for the women is at present of two years. A woman can be exempted from the service based on a declaration according to which she is opposed to the conscription for religious reasons. The married women also are exempt and the women who marry during his obligatory service are dismissed. 

The conscription has become, in the course of the years, an integral part of the social reality. In the past, not to have served in the FDI was considered to be a misfortune; it is more, it could constitute a real impediment in the future civil career. 


The system of reservations of Israel departs from the assumption of which every citizen is "a soldier with eleven months of license", as he said a Chief of Staff. The reservations service is limited at present to 45 days for year for the officials and subofficials, and to 30 days for the level soldiers. The service in the reservations is obligatory up to the age of 55 years for the men and 50 years for the women. 

Israel is not provided with any type of strategic depth; it can be an object, as it happened in the War of Yom Kipur, of an attack for surprise. Therefore, the mobilización speed is an absolute priority: 48 hours, including the distribution of teams and the office of the unit to his sector assigned in the front, it is considered to be the limit; 24 hours it is the norm, but there are units, especially in the Air Force, in which the maximum limit was reduced at 12 hours. 

To expire with the reservations service causes many difficulties, especially to the young persons who begin to settle. There are interruptions in the programs of production, in the university studies, in the normal flow of the economic activity. In order to minimize the impact, there was established a series of civil - military mixed commissions to consider postponement requests: certain industries or services have been declared essential and his personnel is exempt from the reservations service; the students can postpone his examinations and none loses one year because of the reservations service. 

The salaries of the reservists are proceeded across the Institute of the National Insurance. The workpeople keep on receiving his regular salary and the employers are compensated by the Institute. The independent persons receive a compensation up to a specific limit. 

In spite of the difficulties, many reservists long for the annual reunion with his partners: the fellowship, the life to the interperie, the leakage of the daily routine. Many also voluntarizan to continue in the reservations even after reaching the age of retirement stipulated by the law. 

Regular service

In addition to the conscripts and the reservists, the FDI comprises a considerable number of regular soldiers. They reach the highest status of the FDI: certain specialists; a nucleus for every reservation unit, principally to initiate the process of called the lines and to take care of the stores of the unit. The terms for the regular enlistamiento are flexible: from a few months for the gone away ones from the officials' courses; several years for those who have acquired a special profession during the obligatory service at the cost of the FDI, like the pilots; up to long-term renewable contracts, of up to five years 

of duration. The FDI is structured to allow to his officials, even to those of higher status, to continue the second career after finishing his military service. This is of vital importance to guarantee the constant renewal of the officials' body and to encourage the young and ambitious individuals to whom they remain in the service. There is quite rare to find a general of more than 50 years of age; for the same reason, the normal period of service of the Chief of Staff does not exceed four years. 

Officials' status in the FDI* and his equivalents

Seguen Mishné Subteniente 
Seguen Lieutenant 
Seren Captain 
Rav Seren Mayor 
Sgan Aluf Teniente Coronel 
Aluf Mishné Coronel 
TTat General Aluf Brigadier 
Major General Aluf 
Rav General Aluf Teniente 

* Status for the Army, the Air Force and the Navy 

The army offers a series of incentives to his recruits for they are interesting prolonging his service, signing a contract to serve like regular soldier. The FDI selects his personnel between the best, the most prepared and the most motivated, it trains them and qualifies at the highest possible level, in order to support the existing quality of his members. 


Another element of the strategy of Israel to overcome the quantitative difference with his potential enemies is the constant effort to achieve and to support a qualitative advantage as for his equipment. This is a very delicate topic, since it depends on the international situation and on the possibilities of financing, which have favored in the past to the Arab edict. 

The agreement of sale of weapon Czech - Egyptian of 1955 marked the gradual opening of the whole Soviet, first arsenal to Egypt and then also to Syria and Iraq. Enormous deals for the weapon buy between the producing oil states - particularly Saudi Arabia - and the United States has resulted in a flow it continued of armaments, which Israel must have taken into consideration in spite of the North American guarantees of which these will not be used against Israel. France, which in a time was the principal one (and even the only one) provider of military equipment of Israel, has sold since then equivalent or more modern teams to some Arab states, including to Iraq. 

Conscious of the big importance of the FDI, and in particular of his equipment, for the superviviencia of Israel, the relative proportion of his budget of defense is the biggest of the western world, taking into consideration the considerable contribution of the United States in the shape of loans and subsidies. In normal times this one has reached a level of approximately a third of the entire budget. The constant quandary that faces Israel on having prepared his defense budget is the question appellant of how much it is necessary to assign to the production and the acquisition in Israel and how many debit to be bought in the exterior. This refers principally to the part corresponding to Israel in the defense budget, since the loans and the North American subsidies, with certain notable exceptions, are determined to the buy in the United States and cannot be used to buy in other parts, including to Israel. 

In some cases the FDI they decided to proceed with the development of their own teams, direct result of the disappointment with the foreign supply sources. The Merkavá, the tank of Israeli battle, was developed like direct result of which England was giving reverse gear in the sale of his tanks. When a sequestration declared France as a consequence of the War of Six Days - having to Israel to resort to a stratagems variety to extract of the Port of Cherbourg the torpederas for which he had already paid - the Navy devoted itself to develop in the Israeli shipyards its own version of the rapid torpedera, the Dabur. An attempt of developing and of producing a plane of Israeli multifunctional combat, the Laví, was aborted when the project exceeded fully his original budget. 

The military industries of Israel, in general, were depending on external platforms providers, at the time that they were concentrating on a big variety of warlike materials to transport in them. 

Big efforts have been invested in the development of rockets of solid fuel, in order to increase the scope of the missiles and of airships not crewed to reduce the number of falls. The missile Israeli sea - sea, the Shafir, demonstrated to be useful and it has been exported. Information has been published in the exterior on the advanced state of the Jericho, a ballistic missile of medium scope, with a 900 Km scope. (that is to say, sufficient to come to Iraq). Nevertheless, when Saddam Hussein initiated his attacks with missiles without previous provocation on the part of Israel, the FDI was not prepared to defend themselves really against this type of attack and a rapid air operation was carried out to provide Israel with missiles Patriot, which in the end also turned out to be ineffective. 

To sum up, although the FDI is constantly in search of the best teams that he could try or produce, there has not been in the past, there will not even be in the future, any guarantee of which the material advantage will always be on behalf of Israel. This increases the importance of other factors mentioned above. 

Operational considerations

Perhaps the most important operative decision for the future of the FDI was adopted in his beginning, when it was decided that it should constitute a service unified, headed by only one Chief of Staff - his commander in any practical aspect, subject only to the general authority of the Commander in Chief, the Government, across the Minister of Defence. There was many opposition to this decision. Both the British model and the North American were prescribing another thing.

Chiefs of Staff:
Yaacov Dori 1948-49 
Igal Yadín 1949-52 
Mordejai Makleff 1952-53 
Moshé Dayán 1953-58 
Jaim Laskov 1958-61 
Tzvi Tsur 1961-63 
Itzjak Rabín 1964-68 
Jaim Barlev 1968-72 
David Elazar 1972-74 
Mordejai Gur 1974-78 
Rafael Eitán 1978-83 
Moshé Levy 1983-87 
Dan Shomrón 1987-91 
Ehud Barak 1991-95 
Amnon Lipkin-Shahak 1995-98 
Shaul Mofaz 1998 - 

The decision was adopted for the following reasons: the dimensions and the form of the country; the need to coordinate closely every type of operation with the terrestrial forces; the need to economize in effective and to avoid the redundancy; the need of optimar the procuramiento procedures and to unify the training and the methods of training, in order to facilitate the cooperation between the services. 

The Chief of Staff is the official only one with the highest status - Rav Aluf equivalent to General Lieutenant. Immediately under his control there are the biggest generals - Aluf - chiefs of the divisions of the Headquarters, special and territorial commanders and the commanders of the Air Force and the Navy. The above mentioned serve in two functions: as members of the staff are acesores of the Chief of Staff in matters understood in his respective areas; and at the same time they are the commanders of his respective branches. Till now this system has worked well. There has prevented, between other things, the establishment of air forces separated for the Army and the Navy - that, in case of Israel, would have constituted a waste. 

Israel is divided in three territorial commands - North, Center and South - whose limits coincide with the borders of the nearby countries: Lebanon and Syria to the north, Jordan to the east and Egypt on the south. These are battle commands. In case of war every territorial commander must assume the command of all the forces in his territory and guide them in the battle. 

Also, there is a number of not territorial functional commands. These are the Armored Bodies, the Command of field Forces, the Command of Nájal and the Command of Training. 

The Armored Bodies were established before the War of 1956 in order to encourage to the conversion of a big part of the Infantry in Armoured vehicles, to coordinate the training and to unify the doctrine. The Headquarters of the Body is constituído in such a way that, with minimal notification, it can work like the command independent from a formation, major than the division of the fixed establishment, to be assigned to a territorial command in accordance with the events. 

The Command of the field Forces, on the other hand, is relatively recent. It was created after the War of Yom Kipur, when one found that a big number of tanks was destroyed by the enemy, especially with missiles TAO, because the armoured vehicles were operating without the infantry or with insufficient coordination with her. The Command of the field Forces assembles under the same roof to the bodies of Infantry, Artillery, Armoured vehicles and Engineers - for joint trainings and combined operations. 

The Nájal - acronym of Noar Jalutzí Lojem (Fighting Pioneering Youth) - is a remnant and descendant from the Palmaj (the force of assault of the Haganá). Since the pionerismo - especially in the agriculture, opened new territories for the establishment and the reinforcement of the establishments fronerizos - has a high priority level in the general defense of the country, the soldiers of Nájal of both sexes receive the opportunity to do two things. Many of the establishments that are in the map of Israel were put originally of Nájal advanced post. 

Tactical structure

The Army

The infantry is still considered to be the "queen of the battlefield" - for historical, current and future reasons. 

Historically, because it goes back to the days of the Haganá, more than any of other branches. Although most of the brigades that took part in Guerrde Independencia were fired, two of them - Golani and Guivati - have been supported up to today like regular formations, with traditions and proper memoirs. These brigades received special berets to emphasize his common and particular legacy. At present, because the regular infantry is the principal person in charge of guaranteeing the safety, of supporting the law and the order in the administrated territories and of fighting the terrorism - especially the Hizbalá incursions along the north border, the infantry is suplementada with other units: Nájal and parachutists, and for the reservations. It is largely thanks to them that the rest of the army can dedicate his time and energy to his principal task - the preparation for the entire war. After everything, an enemy in the war is defeated in definitive form only when the infantry of belligerent other does custody opposite to his headquarters, and a war ends only when the infantry of an edict occupies the territory in conflict. 

The warlike history of the parachutists is much shorter, but not less out-standing, that that of the brigades Golani or Guivati. His hour of glory took place during the Campaign of the Sinai, when - for the first time - they were thrown in the middle of a battlefield in the Step of Mitla. Since then the parachuting has turned more than anything into a training practice for the formation of the character, and not a preparation for the battle; the helicopters have replaced gradually the parachute as a vehicle of "perpendicular flank attack". 

The parachutists share with Golani and Guivati the daily tasks and the training exercises. The inherent tension between an army of civil of wide base on one hand - and of elite units for special tasks for other one - it was solved in a satisfactory way by a special unit - Sayeret Matkal. Several Chiefs of Staff have commanded it in different periods of his careers; between his most well-known and daring operations the liberation of the hostages is in Entebe: Operation Yonatán

In the Haganá - a clandestine organization - the biggest unit that was taking part in a tactical operation was the squad. Nowadays the Ugdá (division) is the biggest continual training, which operates according to a triple model: three squads for company; three companies for battalion; three battalions for brigade; three brigades (although they differ according to his character: armoured vehicles, armored infantry, parachutists) for Ugdá. Also one has added a status: Tat-Aluf equivalent to the status of Brigadier general. In every level there were added the necessary units of support and service. 

Over the level of the Ugdá, and in a level lower than the Territorial Commands, there exists a number of structural personnels that are activated any time there is a considerable number of divisions in only one front. These personnels do not have a fixed establishment and forces are assigned to him in accordance with the works that should expire. 

The Territorial Commands comprise not only the frontier area of every command, but also the civil rearguard. Three Territorial Commands - Pikudim in Hebrew - cover the whole country. After the War of the Gulf, a Command of Rearguard was established to liberate to the Territorial Commands of the problems of civil defense, the first help, firemen, evacuation of injured men, closing of areas, alternative housing and compensations payment - which must be carried out simultaneously. 

During the War of the Gulf, the personnel of the Civil Defense enjoyed a rare publicity: his men and women were the first ones in appearing in the irresolute places; his unit of heavy teams, which had acquired experience during the War of the Lebanon and after the earthquakes in Mexico and Armenia, has reputation of being able to do miracles to find and to rescue the victims caught under the debris. 

The Air Force

The Air Force must fulfill the formidable task of gaining time in case of an attack for surprise, to allow to the rest of the FDI to mobilize his forces. Therefore it must be supported in the state of maximum preparation and disposition. In the states of alert maxim, his pilots must wait in the cabins of command of his planes. It is difficult for those who come of out imagining the implications of a country without strategic depth, with a whole of 20.000 Km2 - 26.000 Km2 counting the administrated territories - a country that that almost there is no point that is not to any more than 50 km of the border - two or three minutes of flight in a modern airship; a fraction of this time for a relatively primitive missile. 

From the beginning Israel concentrated on planes of combat and fighter bombers. A plane dedicated exclusively to the bombing was considered to be a luxury in terms of acquisition and maintenance. In spite of this limitation, the FDI achieved the air supremacy in 1967 on having destroyed in ground the Air Force of Egypt. After this war, such an exploit hardly will be possible of repeating: the dispersion of the airships in the country and in the exterior; the construction of underground hangars of concrete; and the emplacement of more and more sophisticated decoys - they will prevent such a thing from happening again. To compensate for the relatively short scope of his planes, the Air Force has developed a notable capacity of filling of fuel in flight. This has acquired particular importance after the evacuation of the Peninsula of the Sinai, including the advanced post bases, in accordance with the peace agreement Egyptian - Israeli. 

The Air Force received a hard punishment during the first days of the War of Yom Kipur. Most of the falls of the FDI were a result of antiaircraft fire in big quantities of a sophisticated artillery of Russian manufacture and the modern missiles of that time surface-to-air SAM. The aviation demonstrated again his power in the air combats during the War of the Lebanon; in the transport at long distance during the Operation Entebe; and in the precision bombing when it destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor Osirak, of French manufacture, from long distance and without falls. 

Although his squadron of planes of combat, mostly F0 and F16 North Americans, has occupied the center of the attention recently, also there have stood out other branches of the Air Force. His helicopters squadron has reinforced with airships Retrieval more modern and big to increase his capacity of transport of a major number of terrestrial troops, of a rapid and sure way, from and towards the battlefield. His helicopters of evacuation of falls, properly equipped, have achieved a speed record and safety in the transfer of the injured men to the base hospitals. 

Little commented in normal times, but suddenly very important, it is the fact that the Air Force is responsible for the system of antiaircraft defender of the country - including the radars and other warning instruments; air patrols; and antiaircraft missiles. During the War of the Gulf there stayed in clear that the FDI does not possess a defensive answer adapted to one of the most primitive missiles, relatively, the Scud, which during a number of years has been in hands of Iraq and Syria. The missile antimissile Jetz (Arrow), a joint development israel-estadounidenense, will be in operation at the end of the century and will provide an answer adapted to this threat. 

The Navy

The Navy was late in finding his full justification, but when it did it it obtained a fully deserved success. After having discarded, in the trascurso of the years, the ships of big openwork - many of which were used to transport "illegal immigrants" in the times of the British Order, and others that he acquired later - it has concentrated in torpederas small, rapid and multifunctional of different sizes and forms and the secret "Flotilla 13" with his divers and endowments of subaquatic demolition. 

The performance of the Navy during the War of Yom Kippur was described with good reason as the only one without initial defeats. Since then another general war one has been preparandpara against the Arab navies and it has carried out the slightly spectacular task of patrolling the coast and of protecting it every day against marauders and terrorist attacks. 

Two important mishaps weigh in the collective memory of the Navy. The first one was the subsidence of the Eilat with a missile Styx, of Russian manufacture, opposite to the Stripe of Gaza in 1967, event that served like reminder of which a top technology is sufficient to compensate the defects in other areas. The missile sea - sea Gabriel - the Israeli answer to the Styx - was developed subsequently. The second event, which up to today is wrapped in a mystery layer, was the disappearance of the Dakar, one of the first submarines of the Navy, in his first trip from Portsmouth to Haifa (1968), shortly after reporting on his entry to the Mediterranean. All his crew, 69 men in whole, perished in the depths of the sea. Although a number of friendly armies offered his help in the búqueda - the Navy of Egypt was of special help - a track has been neither on the place of the submarine nor the causes of his sudden disappearance. 

The program of submarines of the Navy was suspended for several years, but it was begun again at the end of the decade of eighty, only to be left again after a bitter debate úblico on budgetary questions in 1990. The program was recaptured again in 1991, thanks to the Republic of Germany. Conscious of the problems of Israel with Iraq, of which he could not feign ignorance completely (several companies and experts of Germany provided both the "know-how" and the implements to the Iraqis for the manufacture of his missiles) he agreed to finance the program of submarines of the FDI. Paradoxically, this might be one of the consequences of major scope of the War of the Gulf. 

Women in uniform 

The Palmaj (the force of assault of the Haganá), created before the state and the FDI, had granted equality to the women: equal rights and equal tasks, at least theoretically. Some women, although few ones, they registered in every accessible course in this time - and others took part in the battles. 

Shortly after the establishment of the FDI and, in these, of Jen (acronym of Jeil Nashim - Feminine Force - that means "grace" in Hebrew), decreed the removal of the women of the positions in the front. The principal argument for the implementation of this decision was the possibility that there were falling down an hostile hands as prisoners of war. It was just and equitable, it was argued, to demand of the women equal sacrifice and risk; but the risk of falling down prisoners and of being violated or bothered sexually was infinitely major than the risk that the men were covering. 

Since then, the women, although trained in the use of the weapon and prepared for duties in the front, they have not been allowed in units of the first line. After a decision of the Supreme court in 1994, the women now can train in the Air Force like pilots or navigators. 

Although the conscription of the women is only 24 months at present and a big proportion they are exempted for several reasons, there is a women's relative plenty in the military service. This has allowed to the FDI to assume a number of national, but not definitely military functions. The welded ones are used, after a minimal specializing training, like teachers or teachers' assistants in frontier areas, at preschool level or in the primary education; they help new immigrants to learn the Hebrew; and they help to the soldiers to complete his secondary education. A special category composed almost exclusively by women, is that of instructors of geography and history of Israel, principally history of the FDI and his precedents, which they teach in all the schools and camps of training of the FDI

The women also are majority between the instructors of Gadná (juvenile battalions) in the secondary schools. They are responsible largely for the organization of groups of volunteers of the FDI in the exterior: a form of identification that allows to the young people who live abroad, to spend some time in bases of the FDI, realizing tasks you will not serve. 

Finally, although it is not less important, the welded ones serve like sergeants of social welfare, who help the families of the soldiers when the need arises. 

National minorities 

The national minorities - Muslims, Christians, Druzes and circacianos - they have this in common: they all speak Arabic and have familiar bonds and of other types allende the borders. Considering that the potential enemies of Israel are to another side of the borders; considering that a war against the Arabs would create an unbeatable allegiance conflict between the recruits; considering that, on the other hand, the suspicions on his reliability will not be able to disappear completely, it was decided that it was mútuamente suitably to exclude these citizens of the conscription. An appropriate legal formula was designed for legitimizar this arrangement. 

But there are exceptions to the rule. The Druzes signed in 1948 a non-aggression pact with the FDI and subsequently his elders agreed that the conscription is applied to the young people of his community. They act principally like frontier watches, a paramilitary formation subordinated to the police, in which they have achieved distinction and high status. After the war of 1967 also they contribute to the police control of the administrated areas. 

Soldiers of several Bedouin tribes serve like volunteers in regular units of the infantry like trackers, an art that they have perfected during many generations in the desert. They have stood out in his tasks and keep on serving in spite of having suffered a considerable number of falls. 

The FDI has given big importance to the care of the injured men, the rehabilitation of the incapacitated ones, the liberation of the war prisoners and the burial of his dead persons, which constitutes an important support for normally high mulberry tree of his troops. A soldier who goes to the war knows that if he turns out to be an injured man it will not be left in the field of battle but it will receive medical, rapid attention and really; if prisoner is taken, it will not be forgotten and efforts will not be curtailed to bring it back to house; if he dies, the FDI will do the maximum thing so that it has a worthy grave and his widow and children will receive assistance of the state. 

This apparent fortitude source often has demonstrated also to be a weakness source. The government has been criticized for surrendering to the blackmail and paying to the terrorist organizations an exorbitant price for the prisoners' liberation - in one more case 1.000 arrested terrorists they were exchanged by three war prisoners - which encourages them to dedicate to his activities with major vehemence. In at least a case - the negotiations with Syria, across the secretary of the North American State, after the War of Yom Kipur - Israel did substantial authorizations in exchange for a list of war prisoners - a list that the Syrian government was forced to deliver, rapidly and unconditionally, according to the conventions of Geneva of which it is signatory. Also, and what is more important, the extreme sensibility of Israel by the falls has been perceived as a vulnerability source: his enemies came to the conclusion that if a sufficiently big number of falls is inflicted, the gobierndo will have to yield before the internal pressure - independently of the military consequences. Nevertheless it, the FDI have persevered, granting a high priority level to the safety of his soldiers and of his civil population. East is perhaps the achievement of that Israel is prouder - in spite of the occasional doubts - and a constant fortitude source. 

The Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, where there is the grave of Theodor Herzel, visionary of the Jewish State, is the most important military cemetery of the country. There there are buried those who fell down in the battles for Jerusalem and in terrorist attacks, as well as the jerosolimitanos that fell down in other parts. Here the soldiers are honored without grave - the victims of the Dakar and the Eilat, the Palestinian Jewish soldiers of the second World war which ships were sunk in the Mediterranean. In the whole country there are similar cemeteries. More than 20.000 graves - with a simple headstone and the same inscription. Once a year, just before the Day of the Independence, commemoration services are realized by each of them, to whom there attend the ministers of the government and the members of the Knéset. To the sound of the siren the whole country stops to remember his fallens. They are, as he says the famous poem, "the silver salver on which the nation received his independence", and on which his independence is preserved.

Source: MFA - Foreign Office of Israel

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