JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Israeli soldiers killed in a firefight with Palestinian terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip were buried.
Thousands attended the funeral for Maj. Eliraz Peretz, who was buried Sunday on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. He is the father of four young children. His brother was killed in action in 1998.
Peretz and Staff Sgt. Ilan Sviatkovsky of the Golani Brigade were killed last Friday in an exchange of gunfire with terrorists who were planting explosives along the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Two other soldiers were injured in the incident.
Sviatkovsky, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, was buried later Sunday in a Jewish funeral, despite the fact that he had not yet completed the controversial Israel Defense Forces conversion program. He had been scheduled to complete the program upon his return from service in Gaza.
"On behalf of the Government, I would like to convey our deepest condolences to the Sviatkovsky and Peretz families over the deaths of two Golani Brigade fighters, Ilan and Eliraz, who fell defending our southern communities from terrorist assaults from Gaza," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting. "Eliraz fell in the Gaza Strip 12 years after his older brother Uriel fell in Lebanon defending our communities in the north.
"The Peretz family has lost two sons in the continuing conflict that we are waging against Iran’s emissaries of terrorism, and I would like to point out that two more of the family’s sons are currently serving in the Golani Brigade. We are deeply moved by the Peretz family’s greatness and strength of spirit, especially that of Miriam, mother of Uriel and Eliraz. The entire nation draws on her strength, and the entire nation bows its head along with her over her fallen sons."
Netanyahu also warned of reprisals for the murders.
"Israel’s policy of response is sharp and vigorous. We will respond sharply to any attack on our citizens and soldiers," he said. "This policy is well known and will continue. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations must know that they will bear the responsibility for their actions."
Meanwhile, three Gaza terrorist groups fought to take credit for the killing of the soldiers.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the armed wing of Fatah, Izzadin Kassam, all issued statements claiming responsibility, the Jerusalem Post reported.