President Shimon Peres on Wednesday expressed deep regret over the passing of his "dear friend," former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, whom Peres described as "a true hero, a torchbearer of peace, a rare human being and a wise Jew."

"There is no parallel to Amnon's contribution to the security of Israel," Peres said, evidenced by his having been awarded on two occasions the Medal of Valor.

"My love for him is a true love," Peres concluded.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also reacted to the news of Lipkin-Shahak's death with words of praise, calling the former army chief of staff a model of bravery and leadership, and hailing his commitment to attaining goals on the battlefield and in the diplomatic arena.

"He was one of Israel's pillars of security in the last two generations," Barak said of Lipkin-Shahak. "He worked all his life, in the IDF, government, and as a citizen, to attain peace and security for Israel," Barak added.

"He was a unique person and a friend."

Labor party leader Shelly Yacimovich on Wednesday responded with "great sorrow" to Lipkin-Shahak's passing, describing the former IDF chief of staff as "an officer and a gentleman," a revered leader and exceptional person.

Yacimovich spoke of Lipkin-Shahak's integral role in upholding Israel's security, but also highlighted his moral character, saying he was an honest and decent person who was beloved by all.

She concluded by sending her condolences to Lipkin-Shahak's wife Tali and their five children.

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz likewise expressed "hurt" over the passing, while praising the former IDF chief of staff's rare combination of military and political prowess.

Mofaz described Lipkin-Shahak as an "extraordinary person," an honest man and an Israeli hero. He said Lipkin-Shahak would forever be remembered.

Bayit Yehudi party leader Naftali Bennett also expressed regret over the passing of Lipkin-Shahak, calling the former IDF chief of staff a "hero." Bennett said that Israelis owed a debt of gratitude to Lipkin-Shahak for his contributions to the country.

Tzipi Livni Party leader Tzipi Livni said she is "pained by the death of one of Israel's builders, one of the foremost fighters for Israel's peace and security in the country's history."

"Wisdom, courage, honesty, and a dedication to Zionist ideals" were characteristics that fueled Lipkin-Shahat's personal and national contributions, Livni said, which will "forever remain engraved in the fabric of the nation's history."

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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