Israel remembered the fallen of Operation Protective Edge at a ceremony on Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem. Leaders pledged to bring home the remains of the last two missing soldiers and to act decisively against Hamas terror.

Israel marked the first anniversary of the start of Operation Protective Edge in a ceremony at the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl Monday. The ceremony was attended by top Israeli officials, including President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, as well as by family members of the soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge.

“We are not a people of war, but if forced to take up arms to defend our borders and our existence, we will not hesitate to do so,” said Rivlin. “The State of Israel cannot continue to be held hostage by an enemy [Hamas] which operates in the heart of their civilian population. An enemy which does not respect human rights, which does not respect human life, an enemy which scorns international law and democracy.”

The president acknowledged the ongoing suffering for those who were wounded or lost family in the war. In reference to the two IDF soldiers whose remains are being held by Hamas, he said, “So, too, the mission of the State of Israel remains incomplete. We are still yet to see the return of two of our sons: Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin. We shall not rest until we bring them for burial in Israel.”

Nahal Oz bomb shelter

Children play in a bomb shelter at Kibbutz Nahal Oz. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Rivlin warned that the next round of fighting in Gaza would be worse, saying, “The next conflict will be even more difficult than the last. It is clear that such a conflict will require a decisive and difficult decision… When there is no fire towards Sderot, Nahal Oz, Nir Banim, Ashdod or Ashkelon, then there will be no fire towards the Gaza Strip. The rehabilitation and rebuilding of Gaza is an Israeli interest, with the sole condition that Gaza ceases to be a front to carry out attacks against Israel at any given moment. Only the eradication of terror will bring an end to the killing of innocents on both sides.”

Netanyahu also promised that Israel “will do everything in order to bring home St. Sgt. Oron Shaul, the exceptional and beloved fighter, and Lt. Hadar Goldin – the admired commander who captivated his soldiers. This is our basic, human obligation to them and to their families.”

The prime minister warned Hamas, “We are closely following what is being done in the south and are prepared to act with the necessary force. I say to all the enemies of Israel – to Hamas, to Hezbollah, to Iran, and also to ISIS: Whoever tries to harm us, his blood is on his head.”

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel