Israel, marking annual Memorial Day, comes to a standstill

Family members of Israeli soldier Soli Mizrahi repaint his gravestone at Kiryat Shaul military cemetery on the eve of memorial Day in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Israel marks the annual Memorial Day in remembrance of soldiers who died in the nation's conflicts, beginning at dusk Tuesday until Wednesday evening. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

JERUSALEM - Israel marked its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism on Tuesday with sombre ceremonies and a one-minute siren that brought the country to a solemn standstill.

Sirens wailed at 8 p.m. across the country, prompting Israelis to stop in their tracks and stand silently with heads bowed to remember the dead. Another siren will ring out on Wednesday morning.

Memorial Day, which goes from sundown to sundown, is marked across the country by mournful ceremonies and visits to cemeteries by bereaved families. Places of entertainment shut down and TV and radio stations broadcast war stories and melancholic music.

The main ceremony was held at Jerusalem's Western Wall on Tuesday evening and attended by Israel's president, military brass and grieving families.

This year's commemoration has been marred by a dispute between Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and a group of Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families holding a joint memorial ceremony for loved ones. Lieberman refused to allow some of the Palestinian participants to enter Israel, prompting a court challenge by the group of bereaved families.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Lieberman's decision, allowing for the joint ceremony to go ahead as planned. In response, Lieberman said the court "put on the same plane bereavement and terror, the murdered and the murderers."

Memorial Day continues into Wednesday, ending at sundown with a sharp break into jubilant festivities celebrating 70 years since Israel's creation.


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