Ashkenazi: Our freedom has high price

IDF chief calls deadly Gaza clash “saddening reminder” of ongoing fighting.

March 29, 2010 15:52
2 minute read.
Ashkenazi addresses group of soldiers

Ashkenazi Uniform 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi called the weekend’s deadly Gaza firefight in which two IDF soldiers were killed a “saddening reminder” of the ongoing and costly battle for Israel's freedom.

“The soldiers acted correctly,” he added  in an interview with Army Radio. “We shall review our steps and act according to the operational assessment. We are in full readiness and the troops understand the mission and the heavy responsibility on their shoulders.”

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Ashkenazi also stressed that the IDF was soberly facing reality, saying that “at the moment things are calm, but we are closely monitoring events.”

Following his recent visit to the US and the talks he held with senior military commanders there, Ashkenazi described the warm treatment he received, asserting relations with the US are “excellent,” and emphasizing that US Central Command chief General David H. Petraeus denied to Ashkenazi reports quoting him as saying that Israeli policy interferes with the peace process and endangers American soldiers in the Middle East.

Ashkenazi, having earlier visited the area of the incident where Major Eliraz Peretz and St.-Sgt. Maj. Ilan Sviatkovsky lost their lives, concluded by paying tribute to their comrades.

“The Golani soldiers continued performing their mission,” he said. “They bit their lips, hurting for their lost friend and commander, but were definitely aware that the people of Israel are safe behind their protection. Israel's freedom has come at a high price.”

Earlier Monday, Ashkenazi visited Sgt. Guy Elmakayes, who was wounded in a Friday’s Gaza firefight in which Maj. Eliraz Peretz and St.-Sgt. Maj. Ilan Sviatkovsky lost their lives.

“I saw Guy. He was in serious condition, but his condition is now improving,” said Ashkenazi. “The doctors are giving him superb treatment, and I’m pleased to see him recovering and feeling better. Guy told me that he already wants to return to his Golani battalion.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Hamas that it would suffer the consequences for its continued attacks against Israel and IDF soldiers.

“Hamas will carry on paying the price if it continues to destabilize Israel,” said Barak on a visit to the Gaza Division. “The IDF exists to protect Israel’s borders and extract a high price from those trying to attack it. It is a painful price.”

Barak spoke with Golani Battalion 12, to which the two slain soldiers belonged.

“Freedom is only given to those prepared to defend it,” he told the troops. “We can now celebrate Pesach in the country while the bereaved families mourn, only because you are deployed along Israel’s borders, trained and prepared…Nothing stops a Golani Battalion from performing its missions against all challenges.”

Barak also visited the Peretz family, mourning its son Eliraz, killed in the clash with Hamas. “Your strength sets an example for the nation," he said. "The family shows an extraordinary devotion. The entire nation is with you in your loss.”

President Shimon Peres also visited the Peretz family, telling the mother Miriam, “When I heard of Eliraz’s death, 12 years after his brother Uriel was killed in Lebanon, I felt as if I was reading the Bible… going back 3,000 years.”

“Your words tore my heart. On the one hand [they displayed] incomparable grief, and on the other, pride,” he added. “When I see your family I feel that I understand the secret of the State of Israel.”

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