Home News Middle East crisis: Israel marks solemn Memorial Day

Middle East crisis: Israel marks solemn Memorial Day

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Israel is celebrating Memorial Day, a somber annual commemoration that has become even more significant this year in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks and the war they sparked.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend a ceremony to commemorate Israel’s war dead on Monday mount herzl The ceremony will be held at the site of the National Military Cemetery in Jerusalem and will be followed by a commemoration of the victims of Israeli terrorism, according to a government press release.

The national day of mourning officially begins at sunset on Sunday. Around 8 p.m., minute-long sirens sounded across the country, bringing pedestrians and traffic to a standstill on the streets.

Memorial services will be held on Monday afternoon at schools, hospitals and the local community. According to tradition, family members of the deceased visit their graves on this day.

Even in a normal year, Memorial Day, which commemorates fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks, is sacrosanct in the small country of Israel, where many people are aware of casualties in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this year’s commemorations come as the country struggles to recover from the trauma of the Hamas-led attacks on October 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s history, and faces a growing toll. international isolation War waged in response.

According to Israeli authorities, on 7 October, approximately 1,200 people were killed and 250 were taken hostage. According to the Israeli military, since Israel launched its ground invasion of Hamas in Gaza, 272 soldiers have been killed and 1,660 injured.

During a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Square, army chief of staff Lieutenant General Hezi Halevi said he took responsibility for the army’s defeat that day. He also thanked the families of soldiers killed during the seven months of fighting.

“I stand humbly before your courage to endure pain, to gather strength every day and fill the void with meaning despite significant losses,” he said.

International attention is now focused on the conduct of Israeli forces in Gaza, where more than 34,000 people have died, according to local health authorities. But the focus of many Israelis remains primarily inward, with the victims of the attacks and the hostages taken at the center of the national conversation.

Eyal Brandeis, from Kibbutz Sufa near the Gaza border, said he planned to visit the graves of two friends killed in the Oct. 7 attack on Monday. After the attack, his community was evacuated to the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, and seven months later he still has not returned home.

“This year, the day is closer for everyone. We have lost close friends,” Mr. Brandeis, 60, said. “Memorial Day is always special in Israel, but this year it will be even more intense.”

This day is particularly painful for Israelis whose loved ones are still in Gaza. According to Israeli authorities, Hamas and other armed groups are still holding more than 130 living and dead hostages, and negotiations for their release have reached an impasse.

Bar Goren’s father Avner, 56, was killed in a Hamas-led attack on Kibbutz Nir Oz. His mother Maya is presumed dead and her body remains in custody in Gaza.

“We don’t have my mother’s grave to look at and mourn. “For me, I couldn’t emotionally bear to go to Neil Olds’ father’s grave as long as there was an empty space next to him, where she was supposed to be,” 23 Mr. Goren said.

On Monday night, Memorial Day observances will come to an end and Israel will turn to celebrating the country’s 76th Independence Day.

But Renana Gome, also from Neil Oz, said she would miss this year’s celebrations. Her two children, Yagil and Or, were taken hostage on 7 October and held in Gaza for several weeks. They were released during a week-long truce in late November, but the body of Ms. Gome’s ex-husband Yair remains being held by Palestinian militants in the enclave, according to Israeli authorities.

“We cannot celebrate our independence as long as more than 132 hostages are held,” Ms. Gome said. “Flags at half-mast.”

Jonathan Rice Contributed reporting.

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