JERUSALEM, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Wailing sirens Sunday night saw millions of Israelis observing a moment of silence as the nation launched Remembrance Day events in tribute to its 23,169 fallen servicemen and women.
Addressing an official state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz eulogized those killed in battle, saying that while their sacrifice helped build Israel's security "brick by brick," Israel's struggle to survive was far from over.
Earlier Sunday, the Defense Ministry said 107 soldiers and security personnel had been added to the casualty count since Memorial Day last year, among them 50 disabled veterans who had succumbed to their injuries.
The number of Israelis who have lost a relative in war, security operations and military training stands at 17,038, of which 4,966 are widows and 2,141 are orphans, according to ministry data.
President Shimon Peres, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said that the Jewish state was founded thanks to the "blood of its sons, the sweat of its pioneers and the vision of its prophets."
"We still live by our swords, but we yearn for peace with all of our hearts," Peres said in a veiled reference to recently failed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "The battle is not over; we still have not reached our goal."
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the fallen troops, the count of which begins with the establishment of Zionism in 1860.
"They are our national heroes," said Netanyahu, himself a bereaved brother of a Special Forces officer killed in 1976. "We would not be here today if not for their willingness to sacrifice their lives."
The Israeli military on Saturday said it would impose a curfew on the West Bank for the duration of Memorial and Independence days, from 6 p.m. Sunday until midnight on Tuesday.
During the curfew, Palestinians would be given access to Israel only in medical, humanitarian and exceptional cases.