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The 2008 Israel–Hamas ceasefire was a twenty six week Egyptian-brokered truce between Hamas and Israel which started on June 19, 2008 and lasted until December 19, 2008. It is part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more specifically of the Gaza–Israel conflict, and began on the midst of the 2007-2008 Israel-Gaza conflict. The collapse of the ceasefire led to the Gaza War on December 27, 2008.
BackgroundAfter its victory in the 2006 municipal legislative elections, Hamas assumed administrative control of Gaza. Hamas consolidated this control over Gaza after a military conflict with Fatah. Israel and Egypt then partially sealed their border crossings with Gaza, on the grounds that Fatah was no longer providing security. They imposed a blockade on the territory, prohibiting many exports and allowing only enough imported goods to avert a humanitarian or health crisis. After many acts of violence, foreign journalists left the Gaza strip due to the lack of security in the zone.
Hamas and other Palestinian paramilitias more than doubled the monthly number of Qassam rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza strip into Southern Israel. Israel conducted airstrikes and raids against Hamas and other targets in Gaza during 2007 and 2008. Hamas considers Israel an illegitimate state and Israel views Hamas as a terrorist group that must be dismantled. There is no mutually agreed text or enforcement mechanism in the understanding brokered between the two parties, neither of which recognizes the other, that would facilitate a formal ceasefire or armistice.
At the beginning of the cease-fire, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that "We have no illusions. The calm is fragile and likely to be short-lived... Hamas has not changed its skin. These are bloodthirsty and despicable terrorists who even today are doing all they can to harm Israeli civilians." He also said that "Hamas is the address in Gaza, and it carries responsibility for everything that happens in Gaza". Hamas leadership had low expectations as well. Just minutes before the start, Israeli aircraft fired on a Gazan rocket launching squad, killing one militant. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh described the proposed period in Arabic as a Tahdia, meaning a temporary moment of calm and not a formal cease-fire.
The Israeli opposition in the Knesset blasted the agreement. Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said, "This is not a relaxation, it's an Israeli agreement to the rearming of Hamas... What are we getting for this?" In Palestine, Authority President Mahmoud Abbas praised it, and he used the lull to seek reconciliation with Hamas. Ha'aretz has alleged that even at the very beginning of the cease-fire Defense Minister Ehud Barak prepared a comprehensive intelligence-gathering program setting up battle plans against Hamas.
After visiting Israel and Palestine in April 2008, former President Jimmy Carter stated that "Palestinian leaders from Gaza were noncommittal on all issues, these leaders claimed that rockets were the only way to respond to their imprisonment and to dramatize their humanitarian plight. The top Hamas leaders in Damascus, however, agreed to consider a cease-fire in Gaza only, provided Israel would not attack Gaza and would permit normal humanitarian supplies to be delivered to Palestinian citizens." Hamas was willing to consider a cease-fire in both Gaza and the Fatah controlled West Bank, but the Israelis were only interested in a Gaza agreement.
According to The New York Times, neither side fully respected the terms of the cease-fire. Some rockets still continued to fire from Gaza and the Israeli blockade of Gaza was loosened but not completely opened. Hamas hoped that the accord would lead Israel to suspend attacks on the West Bank and Gaza while Israel hoped that the accord would lead to progress on negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit; neither hope was met. USA Today stated on July 1 that the Israelis had a zero tolerance policy towards the truce in which every rocket and/or mortar attack would be punished in some way.
Palestinian Center for Human Rights recorded several IDF violations in the early days of the lull: On 19 June 2008, just a few hours after the beginning of the ceasefire Israeli forces opened fire against fishermen and farmers in Gaza. Also on the 23rd of June, Israeli forces opened fire against children and farmers in northern Gaza Strip, wounding one of the farmers, Jameel 'Abdul Rahman al-Ghoul, 68, in the neck. And on the 25th of June, Israeli forces opened fire against farmers in southeastern Gaza Strip, inuring Salem Ahmed Abu Raida, 82, in the hand.
On 24 June 2008, Israel raided the city of Nablus on the West Bank, outside of the cease-fire area, killing a commander of Islamic Jihad and one other Palestinian. Before the raid, unknown militants had fired a mortar into Southern Israel. Later the same day, three Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza into Sderot, Israel, causing two minor injuries; Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, stating the attack was in response to the Israeli raid. Israel then closed border crossings into Gaza; this was criticized by Hamas which said Israel was "backtracking on the calm". MSNBC has described the violence that day as the truce's "first serious test". Both sides continued to pursue calm afterward.
In this stage of the cease-fire, Hamas called on other Palestinian factions to abide by the truce, and a rocket attack on Israel by al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades was condemned by Hamas as "unpatriotic." Hamas claimed it would imprison anyone, from its own ranks or other groups, caught firing rockets, but also explicitly stated it would not police the border with Israel. In 28 June, Saeb Erekat, the PLO's chief negotiator, called upon all groups to honor the lull, calling it the “supreme Palestinian interest” above all else. The three rocket attacks made from 19 June to 28 June lead Israel to slow down the re-opening of Gaza border areas. In 29 June, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center commented that Hamas preferred to exert outside pressure on the rocket attackers and refused to confront them directly.
|“||It took some days, but they were largely successful. Hamas imposed its will and even imprisoned some of those who were firing rockets. Israeli and United Nations figures show that while more than 300 rockets were fired into Israel in May, 10 to 20 were fired in July, depending on who was counting and whether mortar rounds were included. In August, 10 to 30 were fired, and in September, 5 to 10.</blockquote>||”|
Rocket and mortar attacks continued at a rate of several rockets per month. Shortly after the start of the truce, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center commented that "rogue terrorist organizations" opposed to Hamas continued to carry out attacks. Nevertheless, rocket fire decreased 98% in the four and a half months between 18 June and 4 November when compared to the four and a half months preceding the ceasefire, since over 1,894 rockets were fired into Israel from 1 February to 18 June and just 37 were fired between 18 June and the beginning of November. However, the amount of rocket fire was only decreased by about 20% when comparing the lull in November 2008 to the time shortly before Hamas took power in Gaza.
In 20 November 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to Ismail Haniya, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and Khaled Mishaal, leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement, stating that:
|“||We recognize that until last week Hamas took efforts to halt rocket attacks by other groups as part of the June 19 ceasefire. However, throughout the ceasefire period other armed groups have continued to intermittently fire rockets from Gaza. As the governing authority in the Gaza Strip, it is your responsibility under international law to prevent such attacks, and to arrest and prosecute those who carry them out. We also urge you to take all necessary measures to curb such unlawful attacks whether or not the current ceasefire remains in place or is extended beyond its December 19 deadline. Security forces under your control in Gaza have also demonstrated an ability to curb rocket fire. On at least two occasions, Hamas security personnel arrested people accused of firing rockets. On July 10 at least three members of the Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were detained for firing rockets. All were later released however, and no charges were brought against them.</blockquote>||”|
The Palestinians who negotiated the cease-fire believed that the commerce in Gaza was to be restored to the levels preceding Israel's withdrawal in 2005 and Hamas's electoral victory. Israeli policy tied the easing of the blockade on success in reducing rocket fire. They re-opened supply lines gradually, in stages. They permitted a 20% increase in goods trucked into Gaza in the pre-lull period, up from 70 to 90 truckloads a day, and that included not only humanitarian supplies but also clothes, shoes, refrigerators, and construction materials. Fuel supplies increased from 55MW worth to 65MW worth. BBC News reported in 11 November that Gaza was then receiving only 28% of the amount of goods traded before the Hamas takeover.
Israel has stated that food imports into the Strip were restricted by its inability to operate at border checkpoints facing constant Palestinian attack, and not because of any Israeli-imposed limits. It has accused Hamas of exacerbating fuel shortages by leading labor union strikes by power plant workers. It has also accused Hamas of underfunding the Gaza health care system, and then blaming the situation on Israel despite its free trade of medical supplies. It maintains that some individuals claiming to require medical attention in Israel were in fact planning terrorist attacks, therefore forcing the government to impose travel restrictions. It also accused Hamas of continuing the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza strip via tunnels to Egypt, pointing out that the rocket attacks had not completely ceased.
Over the one-month period from 4 November to 8 December, about 700 truck loads of goods went into Gaza, which is about the amount of material that would have gone through in a single day without a blockade. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in mid-July that "easing restrictions on Gaza crossings is going very slow and the population doesn't feel that there is basically a real truce and a normal life." Jimmy Carter has stated that he believes the cease-fire could have lasted had Israel been willing to lift the blockade and allow in an "adequate" amount of humanitarian supplies.
A group of Gaza militants, including Hamas' armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades, captured Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit in June 2006 and have held him as a hostage ever since, connecting his release to the Israel release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel directly tied his release to the cease-fire. However, the issue was not mentioned in the initial cease-fire itself, which led Shalit's father and grandfather to attack the Israeli government. In the early stage of the lull, Israeli officials had stated that they found “a certain sense of progress” on Shalit's release. Hamas considered Shalit's status to be entirely separate from the cease-fire negotiations themselves. It conditioned a deal about his release to the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The lack of progress in the Egyptian-supervised talks about Shalit severely strained the ceasefire. An offer by Israel in June to release 450 prisoners was rejected by Hamas, who asked for 1,000 prisoners. The Israelis believed that the demands for Shalit's release would increase with time. They also feared a public outcry by people whose relatives died in terrorist attacks perpetrated by the prisoners. Hamas' decisions also alienated it from the government of Egypt, which had linked the opening of the Gaza/Egypt border crossing with Shalit's release. Hamas did not consider the Egyptians to be an honest broker during these talks and looked for another mediator.
Ha'aretz has reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert privately considers his government's decision to link Shalit's release with the cease-fire to be a mistake, even though he has not said so publicly. As well, Olmert's administration has said publicly that the Egyptians promised that Rafah would not open without the soldier's release.
On 4 November 2008, the Israeli military invaded Gaza Strip, entering at least 250 meters inside Palestinian Territory searching for a tunnel. The IDF stated that it was intended for the capture of Israeli soldiers and that it intended to continue with the truce, calling the raid a "pinpoint operation". Hamas and, according to an allegation by the The Huffington Post, one IDF source maintained that it was for defensive purposes. As six members of Hamas were killed, it considered this attack a "massive breach of the truce". Rocket attacks towards Israeli cities around Gaza increased sharply in November 2008, approaching the pre-truce levels. According to a 17 November article in The Telegraph, "since violence flared on Nov 5, Israeli forces and militants, some of them from Hamas, have engaged in almost daily tit-for-tat exchanges."
On December 13, 2008, Israel announced that it was in favor of extending the cease-fire, provided Hamas adhered to its conditions. The conditions posed by a Hamas delegation in Cairo on December 14, were that the parties return to the original Hamas-Israel ceasefire arrangement. Hamas would undertake to stop all rocket attacks against Israel if the Israelis would agree to open up the border crossings, not to reduce commercial traffic thereafter, and not to launch attacks in Gaza. At an Israeli Cabinet meeting on December 21, Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's internal security agency, said he thought Hamas was "interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms... It wants us to lift the siege [of Gaza], stop attacks, and extend the truce to include [the West Bank]." 
On 20 December, Hamas officially announced that they would not be extending the cease-fire, which had expired on 19 December, citing Israeli border closures as the primary reason, and resumed its shelling of the western Negev. The IDF initially maintained what it called a "wait-and-see" policy afterward. Hamas blamed Israel for the end of the ceasefire. It stated that the Israelis had not respected the terms, which Hamas defined as the lifting of the blockade and a complete ban of military incursions into Gaza. At that time, Hamas also rejected European mediation of the talks to release Gilad Shalit.
On 23 December, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said in a newspaper interview that his group was willing to consider renewing the hudna if Israel refrained from operating in Gaza and lifted its blockade. The same day the IDF killed three Palestinian militants, stating that the militants were planting explosives on the Gaza border. Israel was also reluctant to open the border crossings, which had been closed since November. On 24 December the Negev was hit by more than 60 mortar shells and Katyusha and Qassam rockets, and the IDF was given a green light to operate. Hamas claimed to have fired a total of 87 rockets and mortar rounds that day at Israel, code-naming the firing "Operation Oil Stain".
On 25 December 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delivered 'Last Minute' Warning to Gaza in direct appeal to Gaza's people via the Arabic language satellite channel al-Arabiya, to pressure their leaders to stop the barrages. "I am telling them now, it may be the last minute, I'm telling them stop it. We are stronger," he said.
On 26 December 2008, Israel reopened five crossings between Israel and Gaza for humanitarian supplies. Despite the movement of relief supplies, militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at Israel on Friday. Fuel was allowed in for Gaza's main power plant and about 100 trucks loaded with grain, humanitarian aid and other goods were expected during the day. Rocket attacks continued — about a dozen rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza into Israel, one accidentally striking a northern Gaza house and killing two Palestinian sisters, aged five and thirteen, while wounding a third. According to Israeli military officials, the subsequent December 27 Israeli offensive Operation Cast Lead took Hamas by surprise, thereby increasing their casualties.
A poll conducted before the 24 December rocket attacks indicated that 46% of Israelis did not support the invasion of the Gaza Strip, while 40% did. A poll conducted on 1 January, four days after the operation begun, demonstrated that a decisive majority of Israelis support continuing the army's air campaign against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip without endangering the lives of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in a ground offensive. On January 9 public opinion poll in Israel indicated that 76% oppose truce without Gilad Shalit.
According to data taken from the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, during the 6 months of the ceasefire, there were at least 19 Palestinians killed in Gaza Strip by Israeli fire, among them 3 civilians, one of them a 15 year old child. According to the list of the same Israeli Human Rights Organization, no Israeli civilian and no one from the Israeli security force personnel was killed by Palestinian attacks from Gaza Strip in the same period.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Israel Agrees to Truce with Hamas on Gaza, The New York Times, June 18, 2008.
- ↑ Isabel Kershner (2007-12-14). "Abbas’s Premier Tells Israel to Reopen Gaza". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/world/middleeast/14mideast.html.
- ↑ 
- ↑ 
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "Airstrike targets Qassam cell". Ynetnews. 21 May 2007. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3402910,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- ↑ 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Gaza Truce May Be Revived by Necessity. By Ethan Bronner. The New York Times. Published December 19, 2008.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Olmert: Gaza cease-fire is fragile, may be short lived. By Amos Harel and Jack Khoury. Published June 18, 2009.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 Olmert: Truce with Hamas 'fragile'. By Joshua Mitnick. The Washington Times. Published June 20, 2008.
- ↑ Hamas offering Israel truce, not peace. USA Today. Published 3/12/2008.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Ravid, Barak (December 27, 2008). "Disinformation, secrecy, deception: How the Gaza offensive came about". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Summary of Rocket Fire and Mortar Shelling in 2008. (pdf) Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Retrieved 14 January 2009. pp. 5-7. Drop in rocket fire calculated from data provided in report.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Jimmy Carter on "An Unnecessary War". By John Nichols. The Nation. Published 1/08/2009.
- ↑ Isabel Kershner (2008-06-25). "Rockets hit Israel, breaking Hamas truce". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/25/africa/25mideast.php.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 "Israel closes Gaza crossings after rocket attack". USA Today. July 1, 2008. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-07-01-Israel-Gaza-crossings_N.htm. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
- ↑ "IOF troops breach truce in Gaza Strip, shoot at Palestinian fishermen" Palestinian Information Center 20 June 2008 
- ↑ PCHR weekly report No. 26/2008 19–25 June 2008
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Israel closes Gaza crossings after rocket fire". MSNBC.com. June 25, 2008. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25346051/. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- ↑ "Rockets 'violated Gaza ceasefire'". BBC. 2008-06-24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7470530.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 "Palestinian rockets threaten truce". The Boston Globe. June 25, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-06-10. http://www.webcitation.org/5hQ1zjEsU. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
- ↑ Haniyeh: All Palestinian factions should honor truce. Ynet News. Published 6-26-2008.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 Hamas official slams factions for firing rockets into Israel. Xinhua News Agency. Published 6-28-2008.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Implementing the lull arrangement. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center'. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
- ↑ Letter to Hamas to Stop Rocket Attacks. By SarahLeah Whitson. Human Rights Watch. Published 20 November 2008.
- ↑ Truce barely eases Gaza embargo. By Aleem Maqbool. BBC News. Published 19 August 2008.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 Guide: Gaza under blockade. By Heather Sharp. BBC News. Published 11 November 2008.
- ↑ ElKhodary, Taghreed (December 28, 2008). "Israeli Attacks in Gaza Strip Continue for Second Day". New York Times. Archived from the original on December 30, 2008. http://www.webcitation.org/5dSmuUgCK. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
- ↑ Olmert aide supports free Gaza. By Dion Nissenbaum. McClatchy Newspapers. Published 8 December 2008
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 Shalit's fate vague amid ongoing inter-Palestinian crisis. By Sun Yunlong. Xinhua News Agency. Published July 20, 2008.
- ↑ 29.0 29.1 Report: Hamas rejects Israeli bid to free 450 prisoners for Shalit. By Amos Harel. Ha'aretz. Published 29 June 2008.
- ↑ Israeli security officials: Time running out on Shalit deal. By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel. Ha'aretz. Published 10 July 2008.
- ↑ Olmert: Mistake to link Shalit release with Gaza truce. By Barak Ravid. Ha'aretz. Published October 10, 2008.
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 Hamas says not interested in renewing Shalit negotiations. By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel. Ha'aretz. Published 12 August 2008.
- ↑ McCarthy, Roy (5 November 2008). "Gaza truce broken as Israeli raid kills six Hamas gunmen". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/05/israelandthepalestinians. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
- ↑ "Gareth Porter, 'Israel Rejected Hamas Ceasefire Offer In December'". The Huffington Post. Jan. 9, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/09/israel-rejected-hamas-cea_n_156639.html?show_comment_id=19558888. Retrieved Jun. 6, 2009.
- ↑ Hider, James (November 6, 2008). "Six die in Israeli attack over Hamas 'tunnel under border to kidnap soldier'". The Times. London. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5089940.ece. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- ↑ Rory McCarthy (2008-11-05). "Gaza truce broken as Israeli raid kills six Hamas gunmen". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/05/israelandthepalestinians.
- ↑ ""Hamas militants step up rocket attacks"". Associated Press. London. November 15, 2008. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5158480.ece. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- ↑ Israel decides to maintain Gaza blockade. The Telegraph. Published 17 November 2008.
- ↑ Sofer, Roni (December 13, 2008). "Israel in favor of extending Gaza lull". Ynetnews. http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3637877,00.html. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- ↑ "Israeli leaders 'to topple Hamas'". BBC News. 2008-12-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7794577.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- ↑ Harel, Amos; Avi Issacharoff , Barak Ravid (December 21, 2008). "Hamas declares end to cease-fire, Israeli gov't sources fear violence is unavoidable". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1048055.html. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- ↑ "Hamas: Willing to renew truce". Ynet. 2008-12-23. http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3642815,00.html.
- ↑ al-Mughrabi, Nidal (December 24, 2008). "Flare-up dims truce hopes along Israel-Gaza border". Gaza City, PS: Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE4BM2ZP20081224. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- ↑ Lavie, Mark. "The Associated Press: 3 Gaza militants killed in clash on Israeli border" (2008/12/22 ed.). http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ioi_0jtO9RjMwPNRoXNCndRPRq3gD958NJFO0. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- ↑ Katz, Yaakov; Herb Keinon (December 24, 2008). "IDF gets green light to strike Hamas after rocket barrage". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on December 30, 2008. http://www.webcitation.org/5dSq9wqKW. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- ↑ "Hamas: 87 shells fired at Israeli targets in 24 hours". Bethlehem, PS: Ma’an News. 2008-12-25. http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=34211. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- ↑ "Olmert Delivers 'Last Minute' Warning to Gaza". December 25, 2008. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,472856,00.html.
- ↑ "Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings". The New York Times. December 26, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/world/middleeast/27briefs-ISRAELREOPEN_BRF.html?_r=1. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- ↑ "Ha’aretz". http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html.
- ↑ "Israeli attacks on Gaza kill 227". Yahoo. December 27, 2008. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20081227/twl-israeli-attacks-on-gaza-kill227-41f21e0.html. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
- ↑ "Poll: No wide-spread support for IDF Gaza invasion". http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050000.html.
- ↑ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1051852.html
- ↑ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3653393,00.html
- ↑ Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in Gaza Strip
- ↑ Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians in Israel
- ↑ Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians in Israel
- Israeli-Hamas cease-fire criticized. Published June 19, 2008 by UPI.
- Ban welcomes news of Israeli-Hamas pact. Published June 18, 2008 by UPI.
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