"There are still those who wish to annihilate us" - Peres

"There are still those who wish to annihilate us" - Peres

Israel continues facing threats that need a strong defence and brave decisions to achieve peace, Israeli government representatives said Sunday in different ceremonies of the fallen soldiers memorial day.

Sirens sounded across Israel for one minute at 2000 (1700 GMT) Sunday evening to mark the beginning of the memorial day for fallen soldiers and terror victims in the country, dpa reported.

Israelis stood in solemn silence in the streets while shops and public places were closed before to allow the participation in different ceremonies around the country.

"There are still those who wish to annihilate us. And at their head, the autocratic Iranian regime that seeks to cast its rule over the Middle East, silence it with lethal weapons, and launch an anti-Israel incitement campaign to deflect Arab concerns," Peres said in a ceremony in the Western Wall in Jerusalem .

"We are a minority among the nations. But we had the good fortune to have sons that defended us with great courage," the president told to the families of the victims after lighting a candle in the Western Wall.

"Israel's strength springs from the strength of its faith. And its greatness emanates from the heroism of its sons. Today we grieve for their loss. And are blessed by their legacy," Peres said.

"Over the years, we have learned that the olive branch of peace will be achieved only if we remain strong, only if we will be prepared to defend our blood in the same way our fallen soldiers did at this site," Netanyahu said in a previous ceremony in the Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak had said before that Israel can achieve peace with the Palestinians in the framework of the United States' "Road Map" and the two-state solution. This framework would als need "great and brave decisions, cooperation with the international community and close ties with the US," he added.

The memorial Day for Israel's is to remember this year the 22,682 fallen soldiers over the past 150 years, which includes the 111 soldiers and security officials killed in the past 12 months.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said Sunday that 111 Israeli soldiers, police officers and security personnel have been killed in the past year while fulfilling their official duties.

A total of 22,684 men and women have been killed in wars and attacks since 1860, the year Jews built their first community outside the walls of Jerusalem, the ministry said.

A two-minute siren is scheduled to be sounded at 11 am (0800 GMT) Monday, to be followed by services in 43 military cemeteries.

The 24-hour commemoration ends Monday night, when massive celebrations marking Israel's 61st anniversary begin throughout the country.

Israel traditionally marks its Independence Day a week after its national Holocaust Memorial Day - to symbolize its rebirth from the ashes of the attempted Nazi genocide of the Jews of Europe - and immediately after its Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, a reminder that statehood came at a price.

The holidays are celebrated according to the Hebrew calender.

In advance of the holiday, Israel sealed off the West Bank, shutting military road blocks and checkpoints on key West Bank roads leading into Israel, to avoid possible attacks by Palestinian militants in crowded city centres as Israelis celebrate 62 years since their state was founded.

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