Members of the Knesset guard carry the coffin of late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset plaza, in Jerusalem, on Jan. 12, 2014. Israel is holding a state funeral for the former leader Monday ahead of his burial at his family ranch.
JERUSALEM - Israelis and international dignitaries paid tribute
Monday amid tight security to Israel's former Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, a controversial figure lauded for his devotion to the Jewish
state and his leadership of the military.
Israel's President Shimon Peres, 90, called Sharon "the shoulder on whom Israel's security rested."
story of your life is bound to the story of this country. And your life
was dedicated to the life of this country. Your footprints are
imprinted on every hill and in every valley," Peres said. "The nation
loved him and he loved Israel, both its people and its land."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Vice President Joe Biden and other foreign leaders and dignitaries attended the memorial.
a close knit country loses a leader like Sharon it feels like a death
in the family," said Biden, who had known Sharon for 30 years. "This
man had a commanding presence. He filled the room."
presidents and Sharon had some "profound differences" over the years,
Biden said, "we have never failed to support Israel's legitimacy ...
that will never change. Israel is not going anywhere. As long as there
is a United States of America, you are not going anywhere."
Just hours before the funeral, militants in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets, but they did not appear to have landed in Israel.
are prepared for every conceivable scenario from at the event to
rockets from the Gaza Strip," Southern District Police Chief Yoram
Halevy told USA Today.
The parliament's vast plaza, where Sharon's
flag-draped coffin was flanked by an honor guard, and flags flew at
half mast, was filled with thousands of mourners: Sharon's two surviving
sons and grandchildren (a third son died when he was 11); dignitaries,
government and military officials and many of the people who knew Sharon
- known for his personal warmth and charisma - during his long,
Sharon's coffin had been lying in state since
Sunday at the Knesset's outdoor plaza where Israelis from all walks of
life paid respects. On Monday, following the memorial, the coffin left
the Knesset for the northern Negev, where Sharon will be buried at his
family's ranch with military honors. The ranch in southern Israel is
just a few miles from the Gaza border.
Quoting a security source, The Jerusalem Post
reported that Israel had "passed the message" to Hamas officials in
Gaza to ensure that no rockets are fired during Sharon's funeral at the
late prime minister's ranch in southern Israel.
"It was made clear
to them that tomorrow would be a very bad day for anyone there to test
Israel's patience," said the source, who spoke on condition of
The ex-prime minister and army commander died Saturday at the age of
85 after spending the last eight years in a coma following a stroke.
Tucker, who lost her home and farm in 1995 when Israeli troops, acting
on Sharon's orders, removed nearly 10,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza,
called it "ironic" that Sharon's funeral will be guarded by an Iron Dome
mobile defense system, deployed in 2011, that shoots down rockets and
"The Iron Dome is protecting the funeral and the
dignitaries out of fears of a rocket attack from the land that used to
be our homes. That's what I call irony," Tucker said.
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