President Shimon Peres paid a condolence call on Wednesday to the family of soldier Majdi Halabi, whose remains were discovered on October 10 following his disappearance seven years ago.

Leading figures in the Druse community came to the Halabi house to pay their respects to the president, and to tell him how much they appreciated the fact that the IDF had continued to keep Halabi on its agenda and not give up the search nor the hope that he be found alive.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Majdi’s father, Nazmi, who said that his is a traditional family which accepts its destiny, albeit with a heavy heart. All his sons have served in the IDF for the security of the State of Israel, he said, but it was of utmost importance to the family that they be told the whole truth about how Majdi met his fate.

Peres told all those who had congregated to meet him in Daliat al-Carmel: “The Druse and the Jews in Israel are brothers in arms and brothers in peace.”

Addressing himself specifically to the Halabi family, Peres said that he had come in his own name and the name of the nation to share in their grief and to offer them whatever words of comfort he could. He said he was aware of the great suffering the family had endured during the seven long years when they had no idea what had happened to Majdi or where he was.

Peres assured them that the IDF had done all that it could in its search for Majdi and that both he and his military aide, Brig.-Gen. Hasson Hasson – who is himself a member of the Druse community – had been personally involved.

In the course of his visit, Peres referred to the intensification of rocket fire in the South and that unfortunately an IDF officer had been seriously wounded. Peres wished the officer a speedy recovery, adding that the situation in the South is intolerable.

“It’s untenable that they shoot at us and we sit there with our arms folded without retaliating,” he said. Israel has nothing against the population of Gaza and would be happy to see it flourishing with many accomplishments, said Peres, but the leadership has to choose between construction and destruction. It cannot continue with a policy of terror.

“They have to decide whether to build or to shoot.”

If the attacks continue, he said, Israel will use all the power at its disposal to defend itself and to safeguard the lives of its people. Everyone in the South is entitled to sleep quietly and undisturbed, he said.

Peres also commented on the visit to Gaza by the emir of Qatar, who reportedly donated huge sums of money for construction in the Strip.

Nobody should be fooled into believing that this is where the money will be spent, said Peres. Everyone knows that it will be used for terror and to build more rockets, the president added.

The Druse leaders also took advantage of the president’s presence to complain about lack of electricity in some of the villages, and Peres promised to deal with the problem.

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