Olmert: We will defend Israel's security with all our might

Siren sounds across country as nation mourns fallen; Remembrance Day ceremonies held at 43 military cemeteries, including Mount Herzl.

Remembrance Day began Tuesday night at 8 p.m. with a one-minute air-raid siren which wailed across the country. The official state ceremony marking the start of Remembrance Day began immediately after the siren at Jerusalem's Western Wall Plaza, in the presence of Peres, Ashkenazi and bereaved families. "For sixty years we have been having what previous generations of Jews never had - a national home. These soldiers have a wrought a miracle in human history. During six wars they fought, and Israel won. They helped make this country a peace-seeking, just state," Peres said at the start of the ceremony. "We want to end wars and continue the Zionist movement's vision. We want to shake our neighbors' hands, but we know, when necessary, to pull the trigger," Peres said. Peres went on to mention the various forces whose fallen are being commemorated: The IDF, the police, the border police, the Shin Bet security agency, the Mossad and other security agencies. "Before we enter our seventh decade, we can be proud of our freedom, our strength and equal opportunity for all. Our soldiers serve out of a vocation and a need to contribute," Ashkenazi said, speaking after Peres. "We must continue teaching of the fallen soldiers' bravery, the heroes whose blood soaks the earth of Israel," he continued. "The IDF will not fear any obstacle and will continue to be the shield that defends Israel." The ceremony was broadcast live Tuesday night on all Israeli television channels and radio stations. All places of entertainment were closed from Tuesday night and will remian closed until sunset Wednesday. The Defense Ministry said that since 1860, when the first Jewish settlers began establishing Jewish neighborhoods outside the Jerusalem city walls, 22,437 men and women have been killed in defense of the Land of Israel. Sixteen Israeli civilians were killed in terrorist attacks in the first four months of the year, bringing the total of civilian terror-related deaths to 1,634 since the creation of the state 60 years ago, National Insurance Institute Director-General Esther Dominissini said Monday. Remembrance Day will draw to a close Wednesday night at 8 p.m. with the traditional torch-lighting ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl marking the sudden transition from sadness to joy with the start of Israel's 60th Independence Day.