Israelis pause to honour fallen on Remembrance Day

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israelis observed a minute of silence on Tuesday evening as sirens sounded throughout the country for Remembrance Day, commemorating fallen soldiers and civilian victims of violence.

Motorists stopped and left their vehicles, to reflect at 8:00 pm local time (1700 GMT).

President Reuven Rivlin and the military's chief of staff Aviv Kochavi attended the opening ceremony at the Western Wall.

The site, one of the holiest in Judaism, is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

National flags will fly at half mast until Wednesday evening.

Citizens paid tribute this year to 23,741 members of Israel's security forces and 3,150 civilians killed since 1860 -- the year the first Jew was killed by an Arab in what would become Israel.

Four of those civilians were killed since Saturday as a result of the latest flare-up in violence with Palestinian militants based in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

"We are not eager to go to war, but know that our willingness to sacrifice is the guarantee of our fate," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a commemorative ceremony earlier Tuesday, a day after a truce ended the two-day escalation with the Palestinian enclave.

Solemn gatherings will be held Wednesday morning at military cemeteries and war memorials across the country beginning with a siren at 11:00 am local time.

Memorial events will conclude with an evening ceremony on Wednesday triggering a transition to 24 hours of festivities marking Independence Day, in celebration of the state's 71st birthday.

For Palestinians, the anniversary of Israel's 1948 independence marks the Nakba, or "catastrophe", when more than 700,000 fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel's creation.