Israeli Soldiers Laid to Rest after 10 Years
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Ten years after their death in south Lebanon, two young Israeli soldiers reached a final resting place Monday in funerals attended by thousands of mourners and Israel’s prime minister.
As their families watched in tears, Yosef Fink and Rachamim Alsheikh were buried with full military honors in back-to-back ceremonies.
The two, said to have died of their wounds soon after their capture by Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in 1986, were returned to Israel on Sunday in the largest such exchange between the two sides in 14 years.
Soldiers wearing the purple berets of the men’s Givati brigade escorted their coffins, draped in blue-and-white Israeli flags, to separate grave sites.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended both funerals, said he hoped peace would bring an end to the pain caused by war.
``We were given the right to ease the suffering of mourning parents by bringing their children home,″ Netanyahu said as he stood over Fink’s grave.
``In their memories we will strive for true peace, so that there will be no more mourning parents.″
Fink was buried in his hometown of Raanana, a suburb of Tel Aviv, and Alsheikh was buried at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu stood by Alsheikh’s parents, Saada and Shlomo, and held Mrs. Alsheikh’s hand throughout the service.
Hadassah and Mordechai Fink and their three daughters Zvia, Osnat and Rachel wept as Yosef’s coffin was lowered into the ground.
Dan Baruch, the city official who told the Finks their 21-year-old son had been taken captive 10 years earlier, also attended.
``It is important for the family to have a place where they can come to remember their son,″ he said.
``Now there is a grave in Israel,″ Baruch told Israel radio.
The two men were captured after their military convoy was ambushed during a patrol in south Lebanon. A Hezbollah leader said Monday they died of their wounds after a few hours.
Sunday’s swap was the biggest between Hezbollah and Israel since 1982, the year Israel invaded Lebanon. In return for the two bodies, Israel returned 45 Hezbollah prisoners and the bodies of 123 Islamic militants.
Four Israeli soldiers remain missing in Lebanon. In Beirut on Monday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah pledged to help find Israeli air force captain Ron Arad, missing since his plane was shot down over Lebanon on Oct. 17, 1986.
Despite the swap, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah would not abandon its war against Israeli troops occupying a border enclave in south Lebanon.
``What happened yesterday has nothing to do with the our resistance operations,″ he said. ``We will continue our struggle until the enemy is out of Lebanon.″
The coffins containing the remains of 123 Hezbollah guerrillas were taken to a mosque near Beirut, where a mass burial was scheduled Tuesday.