Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Jerusalem

Overview: Israel continued to be a committed counterterrorism partner in 2013. Israel again faced terrorist threats from Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank; and from Hizballah in Lebanon. According to Israeli government sources, six Israelis were killed as a result of terrorist attacks in 2013. Three individuals were stabbed, two were killed by sniper fire, and one was abducted and murdered.

Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, and multiple terrorist attacks were launched along the Gaza security fence. Gaza also remained a base of operations for several Salafist splinter groups. 2013 saw the lowest number of rocket and mortar launchings on Israel from Gaza and the Sinai in more than a decade with 74 launchings compared to 2,557 in 2012. According to Israeli authorities, 36 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory in 2013 compared to 1,632 in 2012. Of the 74 launchings on southern Israel, 69 were launched from Gaza and five from the Sinai Peninsula. Only 36 of the total launchings were identified as landing in Israeli territory – others either landed in Gaza territory or in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Government of Israel responded to these threats with operations directed at terrorist leaders, infrastructure, training facilities, and rocket launching sites. Arms smuggling from Iran through Egypt into Gaza to Palestinian terrorist organizations significantly decreased. Israeli officials continued to be concerned about the smuggling of weapons from Libya and via Sudan into Gaza.

Israeli experts noted that militants successfully smuggled long-range rockets from the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels into Gaza and subsequently began producing rockets in Gaza. However, these experts recognized the positive impact of increased Egyptian government efforts to fight smuggling through such tunnels in preventing weapons and dual-use materials from reaching Gaza.

Israeli counterterrorism officials said Gaza militants made significant quantitative and qualitative advances in capabilities in the five years since Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009). The Government of Israel continued to hold Hamas, as the dominant organization in effective control of Gaza, responsible for attacks emanating from Gaza, and Israeli officials pointed to these attacks as proof that Hamas has not abandoned terrorism.

Over the course of the year, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) discovered several tunnels from Gaza into Israeli territory. These tunnels are believed to have been designed to undertake kidnappings or attacks on Israeli border communities. The most intricate of these tunnels, a reinforced concrete structure over one mile long and up to 59 feet deep, was discovered in October and destroyed by the IDF a few weeks later.

Israeli security officials and politicians remained concerned about the terrorist threat posed to Israel from Hizballah and its Iranian patron, highlighting that Iran, primarily through the efforts of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), continued to transfer arms to Hizballah. Also, Israeli officials were concerned about the proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. According to the Government of Israel, Hizballah has stockpiled some 60-70,000 missiles in Lebanon since the 2006 Lebanon War, some of which are capable of striking anywhere in Israel, including population centers.

The Israel Security Agency (ISA, or "ShinBet") reported a total of 1,271 of what it defined as terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank against Israeli citizens in 2013. Of these, 858 involved firebombs, but the attacks also included shootings, stabbings, grenade and IED incidents, and rock throwing. The ISA identified an additional 126 attacks in Jerusalem, 122 of which involved firebombs. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and ISA continued to conduct operations in the West Bank, in part to maintain pressure on Palestinian terrorist organizations and their supporters. The improved capacity of Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) also constrained those terrorist organizations' ability to carry out attacks.

In November, Israel and the United States held an interagency counterterrorism dialogue to discuss the broad range of threats in the region and to determine areas of collaboration to address these challenges.

In 2013, Israel engaged with the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, and France on preventing possible terrorist attacks by foreign fighters (especially those fighting in Syria) once they return home.

2013 Terrorist Incidents: Israel faced a variety of terrorist attacks and threats in 2013, including: rocket and mortar fire from Gaza; a bus bombing; attacks along the Gaza security fence; and limited rocket fire from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula towards the southernmost city of Eilat, and from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Rocket and mortar fire emanating from Gaza continued to be the most prevalent form of attack by Palestinian terrorist organizations, albeit at a significantly reduced rate from previous years.

Attacks included the following:

  • On July 14, two masked gunmen in the Sinai fired across the border at IDF soldiers just west of the town of Nitzana. They then retreated from the border area and continued exchanging fire with Egyptian forces.

  • In November, there were two politically-motivated stabbing attacks within the Green Line area, which the ISA characterized as terrorism. One Israeli soldier was stabbed to death in Afula (November 13), and a female soldier was slightly injured in Jaffa (November 22).

  • On December 22, an abandoned bag left on the rear seat of a bus in a south Tel Aviv suburb Bat Yam exploded after a passenger alerted the driver, who parked the bus on the side of the street and evacuated the passengers from the vehicle, according to the Israeli military radio station. One policeman was slightly injured when the medium-sized explosive went off. Initial Israeli investigations indicated that it was an act of terrorism.

  • During 2013, five rockets were launched from Sinai toward Israel according to data released by the ISA. Remnants of three of the rockets fired were located in areas surrounding Eilat and one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The remaining rocket was not located in Israeli territory and may have landed in neighboring Aqaba, Jordan.

Incidents along the Gaza Security Fence:

  • In March, the IDF uncovered and defused three explosive devices adjacent to the Gaza security fence.

  • On May 1, IDF soldiers came under fire near the security fence in the central Gaza; two armored vehicles were damaged.

  • On June 1, an Israeli soldier was killed when a terrorist attempting to enter Israel from southern Gaza opened fire on IDF soldiers.

  • On October 23, an IDF officer was injured in an IED attack on the Gaza border. Israeli forces subsequently uncovered additional explosive devices near the security fence.

  • On October 31, five IDF soldiers were injured by an explosive device, which exploded in an attack tunnel leading from central Gaza into Israel while the soldiers were demolishing the tunnel.

  • On October 31, five IDF soldiers were injured while demolishing a tunnel leading from central Gaza into Israel. The tunnel contained an explosive device which exploded, injuring the soldiers.

  • On November 9, explosives in a tunnel on the Gaza border detonated during an operational activity by the IDF.

  • On November 10, an anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF patrol along the security fence in the northern Gaza, injuring four Israeli soldiers.

  • Explosive devices were also located near the Gaza border on two separate occasions in January, once in February, and once in September.

Incidents of Rocket Fire from Lebanon:

  • On August 22, four rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards communities in northern Israel. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, two rockets fell in Israeli territory in open areas without causing damage or injuries, and the remaining rocket did not reach Israeli territory. The IDF reported that global jihadists were responsible for the attack.

  • On December 29, at least five rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel. One rocket landed near the community of Kiryat Shmona on Israel's northern border.

Hizballah-linked incidents:

  • Since the Bulgaria attacks in July, 2012, there have been no serious overseas incidents targeting Israelis or Israeli interests. However, in Nigeria, a case involving Hizballah planning against Western and Israeli targets underwent local investigation and led to a conviction on criminal charges.

  • In Azerbaijan, an October arrest of an Iranian, possibly Quds Force, was investigated by local Azerbaijan police before the suspect was released.

  • Previously reported cases of terrorist attacks or plots targeting Israeli interests and citizens abroad have advanced within legal systems in Bulgaria, Cyprus, India, and Thailand, and in many cases led to convictions and sentencing. See individual country reports for details regarding the investigations and legal proceedings about these cases.

Price Tag Attacks:

"Price tag" attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement) expanded into Israel from the West Bank in 2013. The Israeli government formed a new unit of the national police designated specifically to investigate these crimes in both Israel and the West Bank and in June the Security Cabinet authorized the Ministry of Defense to classify groups that perpetrated "price tag" attacks as "illegal associations," which allowed security authorities greater leeway in collecting information on and seizing the property of groups, and of their members, that perpetrated "price tag" attacks. Incidents included:

  • In July, gravestones in a Christian Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa were vandalized with the words "revenge" and "price tag." Price tag graffiti was also found on a residential building near the cemetery.

  • In August, the Beit Jamal Monastery near Jerusalem was firebombed and spray-painted with the words "death to the Gentiles" and other slogans.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Israel has a robust legal framework to combat terrorism and promote international legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution of terrorists.

On January 2, Israel's Security Cabinet updated its list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism in order to better align with the UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions lists. As part of this update, the Security Cabinet designated eight organizations as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), repealed the terrorist designation of 23 other organizations, declared 119 foreign individuals to be terrorists, and canceled the terrorist designation of nine other individuals. The update was issued pursuant to Israel's Prohibition of Terror Financing Law, 2005, which allows the Israeli Security Cabinet to declare a foreign association to be an FTO on the basis of a relevant determination by a foreign country or by the UNSC. This is the first terrorist designation process that has taken place since this law was amended to authorize the Security Cabinet to designate FTOs and individual terrorists solely on the basis of UNSCRs (prior to this, an Israeli examination of the evidence was also required).

In December, the Minister of Defense approved the designation of 16 Hamas-related entities, 12 individuals, and four institutions, all operating out of Europe on fundraising, radicalization, recruitment, or incitement. Other than compliance with UNSCR 1267/1989 (al-Qa'ida) sanctions regime, this is the first time that Israel designated individuals.

On the law enforcement front, the ISA and Israel National Police (INP) continued to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, as well as other counterterrorism initiatives of mutual interest.

The Israeli Ministry of Interior maintains a voluntary biometric passport control system at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, which is available for Israeli passport holders over the age of 18. The system facilitates both entry into and exit from Israel via an automatic kiosk for Israeli citizens who successfully pass a background check and provide a scan of the back of their hand. In July, Israel began issuing its new biometric passport via a voluntary pilot program and has been rolling out the initiative in stages to select geographic locations. The new passport has been available for residents of Tel Aviv since September 2013. Israel recently completed construction of a border fence along the length of its border with the Sinai Peninsula to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Israel, but it has been augmented with cameras and sensors to reduce the threat of terrorism as well. Israel does not collect advance passenger name records on commercial flights.

Iranian and Belgian dual-national Ali Mansouri, 55, was arrested September 11 in Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport as he attempted to leave the country. The state prosecution charged him with espionage and aiding an enemy in war. According to the indictment, Mansouri had been recruited by Iranian intelligence services, visited Israel three times, and passed along to Iran information about starting a company in Israel, about security procedures at Ben Gurion International Airport such as security checks and the kinds of questions asked, as well as photographs of the airport, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and a classified security installation.

On January 2, the military advocate general's office filed an indictment with the West Bank Military Court against Ahmed Salah Ahmed Musa for his role as the alleged mastermind of the November 21, 2012 bombing of a bus in central Tel Aviv. The bomb exploded in a city bus on Shaul Hamelech Street in central Tel Aviv, near the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense, wounding 26 Israeli civilians. On October 22, 2013, Muhammad Asi, suspected as one of the planners of the bus bombing, was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli security forces near the West Bank village of Bil'in when they attempted to capture him. On December 2, 2013, 19 year old Israeli Arab Muhammad Abed Al Jfar Nasser Mafarja pleaded guilty to planting the bomb on the bus and was convicted of attempted murder, attempting to assist the enemy, and assault. His sentencing is set for February 17, 2014. According to the ISA, the cell planned additional attacks against soldiers in various locations, including drive-by shootings.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Israel is a member of the Council of Europe's Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (Moneyval), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that Israel received high marks on its fourth round Moneyval evaluation in 2013, at year's end that report was not available on the website for public consultations.

The Israeli financial intelligence unit, known as the Israeli Money Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority, is a member of the Egmont Group. Israel's counterterrorist finance regime continued to be enhanced through enforcement operations and the inclusion of new groups under national terrorist finance laws. The well-regulated Israeli banking industry worked to address suspected terrorist activity. Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities, as did the funding of Hizballah through charities and criminal organizations.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Israel continued its counterterrorism cooperation with a range of regional and international institutions, including the UN, the OAS, and the OSCE. In 2013, Israel conducted strategic dialogues that included counterterrorism discussions with the United States, Canada, Russia, the UK, Germany, India, and Singapore. Israel also engaged on counterterrorism with the EU, France, Greece, Cyprus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Kenya, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Australia, and hosted a delegation of prosecutors from Kazakhstan. After changes to the Global Counterterrorism Forum's (GCTF) procedures for non-member states' participation, Israel took part in GCTF activities. Israel continued to cooperate with the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) to assist Latin American states in counterterrorism efforts. Israel also deepened its cooperation with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). As a full member of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Israel presented a proposal for hosting a seminar on legal aspects of counterterrorism. Israel also engaged with the EU on transportation and aviation security efforts and sought to deepen its counterterrorism cooperation with NATO.

The West Bank and Gaza

The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) remained present in the West Bank, although the improved capacity of PA Security Forces (PASF) significantly constrained those organizations' ability to carry out attacks. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the West Bank due to the IDF continuing presence in certain areas per Oslo-era agreements. The IDF and Israeli security service (ISA or "Shin Bet") continued arresting members of terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank, including some who were reportedly planning to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Gaza continued to be administered by Hamas. Hamas, PIJ, and other Gaza-based terrorist and militant groups launched attacks against Israel from Gaza. Hamas continued to consolidate its control over Gaza, eliminating or marginalizing potential rivals. Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza continued to smuggle weapons, cash, and other contraband into Gaza through an extensive network of tunnels from Egypt, although the Egyptian government severely curtailed smuggling from the Sinai in the second half of the year. Gaza remained a base of operations for several Salafist splinter groups, such as the Mujahideen Shura Council; and clan-based terrorist groups that engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks.

Palestinian militants initiated attacks against Israelis inside the West Bank and Israel. In April, for the first time in the previous 18 months, an Israeli was killed in the West Bank when a Palestinian stabbed settler Evyatar Borovsky at Tapuach Junction, south of Nablus. Also in September, an Israeli soldier in Hebron City died from a bullet wound; the identity and nationality of the perpetrator are unknown. Additional incidents in the West Bank and Gaza included:

  • In January, a Palestinian from Ramallah stabbed a 17-year-old Israeli at a hitchhiking post near Tapuach Junction (an Israeli settlement in the West Bank), who sustained light to moderate wounds.

  • In April, Israeli settlers, suspected to be from Yitzhar settlement, vandalized and attempted to set fire to a mosque and staged multiple attacks against civilians in the Palestinian village of Urif in response to the killing of Israeli settlers at Tapuach Junction.

  • In April, an Arab Jerusalemite was stabbed and critically injured in the Me'a Shearim section of West Jerusalem shortly after the murder of a settler at Tapuach junction.

  • In October, a Palestinian crashed a tractor through the perimeter fence of an Israeli military base in the village of al-Ram; the IDF shot and killed him.

  • In October, per press reports, PA security forces in Hebron disrupted a cell attempting to construct a drone aimed at launching attacks on Israel.

  • In November, Israeli security personnel killed three Salafist Jihadist militants leading a cell in the West Bank who reportedly took "inspiration" from al-Qa'ida, but were not affiliated with the group. According to press reports, PA security officials also detained a number of other suspects in the ring.

  • Shin Bet reported a total of 918 of what it defined as terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank against Israeli citizens from January through November. Of these, 760 involved firebombs, but the attacks also included shootings, stabbings, grenade and improvised explosive device incidents, and rock throwing. Shin Bet further identified an additional 360 attacks in Jerusalem, 312 of which involved firebombs.

  • In December, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman stationed at a traffic circle outside Ramallah.

Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted according to UN and NGO sources. The UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs reported 399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage. Violent extremists, including Israeli settlers, vandalized five mosques and three churches in Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to data compiled by the UN.

The United States continued to assist the PA's counterterrorism efforts through programs that continued to strengthen the capacity of the PASF, primarily through training, equipping, and the provision of infrastructure to PA personnel in the West Bank. U.S.-funded training of PASF primarily took place at the Jordan International Police Training Center, and the PASF's Central Training Institute in Jericho. Concurrently, the United States continued to assist the larger PA criminal justice system to conduct more thorough investigations and prosecutions of terrorist related activity, and to ensure safe incarceration of those being held for trial or convicted of such crimes.

Israeli authorities, among others, have noted continuing improvements in the capacity and performance of PASF as a leading contributor to the improved security environment in the West Bank, and a dramatic reduction in terrorist incidents in and emanating from the West Bank over the past seven years. For example, in early October, PASF personnel conducted a large-scale crackdown in the restive Jenin refugee camp aimed at arresting PIJ members and criminal elements, including rogue members of the ruling Fatah party.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas consistently reiterated his commitment to nonviolence and recognition of the State of Israel. He continued to support a security program involving disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank. President Abbas's Fatah party also continued efforts to end the division resulting from Hamas's control of the Gaza. In February, Hamas permitted the Central Elections Commission to register voters in Gaza for national elections, a precursor for reconciliation. In May, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a timeline to form an interim Palestinian government and hold elections, but implementation stalled because of disagreements between the factions, and there have been no formal talks since then.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The PA continues to lack legislation that is specifically tailored to counterterrorism, although existing Palestinian laws criminalize actions that constitute terrorist acts. Presidential Decree No. 3 of 1998, titled "Enhancement of National Unity and Prohibition of Incitement," prohibits incitement to violence, illegal associations, and acts against Palestine Liberation Organization agreements with other states (an indirect reference to the Oslo Accords with Israel). PA officials frequently enforce Presidential Decree No. 17 of 2007, which criminalizes armed militias and any assistance to such militias, as well as carrying unlicensed weapons and explosives. Presidential Decision No. 257 of 2007 bans "all Hamas militias" and states that any affiliation therewith will be punished in accordance with the laws and regulations in effect. The PA's parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, has not met since 2007 due to the Hamas-Fatah rift, and is unable to pass new legislation.

The PA continued to detain terrorists in the West Bank, and PA authorities tried some detainees in civilian and military courts. Despite on-again, off-again factional reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, PASF personnel continued to detain Hamas elements, operations often protested by Hamas officials. The PA continued to develop its civilian justice institutions (e.g., judiciary, police, prosecutors) to improve both investigative and prosecutorial functions. In partnership with international donors, the PA has made efforts to reduce case backlogs, improve warrant executions, and forensic services.

After 2007, many terrorism and security-related cases were processed through the Palestinian military (security) court system. Following numerous objections by civil society groups, the PA decided in 2011 to prosecute all cases involving civilian suspects in the civilian court system. In 2013, a committee formed by the PA drafted legislation to govern the military court system which, in part, confirms that its jurisdiction is limited to members of the security services. The draft legislation was completed in December 2013 and was awaiting submission to the Council of Ministers for consideration.

The key PA institution by mandate and law that works to prevent internal terrorist events and investigates security-related criminal conduct is the Preventive Security Organization (PSO). The PSO conducts investigations in coordination with public prosecutors, but this cooperation could be improved, especially the PSO's ability to conduct criminal investigations and gather evidence usable in civil court. PA law enforcement units display mediocre command and control. PA security forces have a mixed although steadily improving record of accountability and respect for human rights. International donors, primarily the United States and the EU, continued to provide assistance to the PA to improve its capacity in this field. Since the PA committed to moving the prosecution of all civilian cases, including those involving terrorism and security-offenses, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the civilian courts, increased efforts are needed to: enhance cooperation between security service investigators and civilian prosecutors and improve the ability of the security forces to conduct investigations that produce evidence for use in civilian prosecutions; and strengthen the ability of selected civilian judges and prosecutors to deal with security-related cases.

Per the Oslo-era Accords, Israel controls border security in the West Bank.

The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas' control of the area and the resulting inability of PASF to operate there. Limitations on PA counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PASF in and through areas of the West Bank for which the Israeli government retained responsibility for security under the terms of Oslo-era agreements.

The PA continued to lack modern forensic capability. The Canadian International Development Agency, through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, announced a multi-year project to initiate forensic criminal capacity within Palestinian law enforcement and project activity commenced in late 2012. The project progressed slowly in 2013 in the areas of training, facilities development and the initiation of the equipment procurement process. Eight physicians were sent to Jordan for a four-year course of forensic training.

PA justice and security leaders continued to participate in regional conferences and meetings to combat terrorism. PASF personnel attended a variety of international training courses related to counterterrorism at training facilities in Jordan, Europe, and the United States.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The PA is an observer to the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), but in 2013 the Palestinian Monetary Authority postponed the submission of its membership application to that body. The PA continued to increase its capacity to combat illicit finance in 2013. The Palestinian financial intelligence unit, known as the Financial Follow up Unit (FFU), added staff and continued building its technical capacity, while conducting outreach to other parts of the PA. Presidential Decree No. 9 of 2007 and subsequent regulations issued in accordance with the law in 2009 established a regime for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of money laundering. The banking sector in Gaza continued to repel Hamas attempts to influence and tax the sector. The PA Interior and Awqaf and Religious Affairs Ministries monitored the charitable sector for signs of abuse by terrorist organizations.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The PA has taken significant steps to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank that fall under its control do not create content that leads to incitement to violence. According to the PA's Palestinian Broadcasting Company's code of conduct, no programming is allowed that encourages "violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex." The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in over 1800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence. Weekly, the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes; the guidance is that no sermon can discuss politics or lead to incitement to violence. The PA's ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon its location and it has limited authority to control the context of sermons in Israeli-controlled Area C. As part of a policy codified in 2003, the PA provided significant financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in 2013 in an effort to reintegrate them into society.


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