Australian killed in Lebanon

Sergeant Assaf Namer, whose family lives in Sydney, was born in Israel but moved to Australia with his family when he was 10.

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According to Israeli media reports, the Australian citizen moved back to Israel two and a half years ago to enlist in the army.

He is the first Australian killed in the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas, which began two weeks ago and which has claimed nearly 500 lives.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff confirmed Sgt Namer’s death.

“We were extremely upset to hear about the death as we are at all casualties of this war,” Mr Alhadeff said.

Sgt Namer’s sister and mother left Sydney today on their way to Israel.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot said Sgt Namer was from Kiryat Yam, and was serving in the Golani division of the Israeli army.

Sgt Namer was due to be discharged from the army within a month and planned to settle down in Israel with his Tel Aviv-based girlfriend.

So far, 433 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have died in the conflict.

Condolences

The Australian government offered its condolences to Sgt Namer’s family.

“This is the first Australian we can confirm has been killed in this fighting and it’s a sad thing that this has happened,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

“Obviously we extend our condolences to the family and we will provide whatever consular assistance is necessary in these circumstances.”

The Australian Jewish News reported Sgt Namer had attended the Jewish high school Moriah College, at Queens Park in eastern Sydney, and sat for the HSC in 1997.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, from the Great Synagogue in Sydney, said an email from Moriah College had been circulated today, telling the community that Sgt Namer had died fighting with the Israeli defence force.

“The boy who was killed is a former student of Moriah College who had gone back to live with his father in Israel,” Rabbi Lawrence said.

“He is remembered as a quiet student, a good basketball player – he played on the team – and a graphic artist.”

The statement, from Moriah College principal Roy Steinman, said: “He was a talented graphics artist and produced wonderful cartoons and images when computer graphics was in its infancy.

“Some years ago, Assaf took the decision to settle in Israel.

“Our heartfelt condolences go to his parents and family. We mourn with them.”

Moriah College is expected to hold a memorial service tomorrow.

A date for Sgt Namer’s funeral will be set once his mother and sister arrive in Israel.

Sgt Namer was born in the Israeli port city of Haifa and migrated with his family to Australia in 1992. He became an Australian citizen three years later in 1995.

The Yediot Achronot newspaper quoted Yaakov Peretz, the mayor of the village where Sgt Namer lived, as saying the soldier had not been forced to join the army, but had felt a duty to serve Israel.

“Although his life was in Australia, he was a Zionist who chose to come to Israel in order to do his part,” he said.

Labor also expressed its sympathy over the death.

“I’m deeply sorry to hear about the death of Mr Namer,” Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said.

“He was obviously fighting for something that he believed in.

“Our thoughts are with his parents, family and friends.”