News / Middle East

    Israelis Mourn Ariel Sharon

    Members of the Knesset guard carry the flag-draped coffin of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem Jan. 12, 2014.
    Members of the Knesset guard carry the flag-draped coffin of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem Jan. 12, 2014.
    Scott Bobb
    Israelis are mourning former prime minister and military commander Ariel Sharon who died Saturday after a long illness. The funeral service Monday at the country's parliament will be followed by a private funeral at Sharon's ranch in the Negev desert, in southern Israel.

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former British prime minister Tony Blair are among those speaking at the memorial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said officials from Russia, Germany, Spain, Canada and the Czech Republic are also among those attending the service.

    On Sunday, thousands of Israelis filed past the coffin of the former prime minister as he lay in state at the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after a moment of silence at the weekly Cabinet meeting, said Sharon represented a generation of Jewish warriors who arose with Israel’s modern-day independence.

    He said that Sharon understood above all that our independence is our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. And he concluded that Sharon will be remembered as one of the most outstanding leaders and daring commanders in the heart of the Jewish people forever.

    ​Israeli President Shimon Peres laid a wreath at the coffin. Earlier he mourned him in a televised address Saturday night.

    "He knew no fear. He took difficult decisions and implemented them courageously... I shall miss him dearly and remember him lovingly," said Peres.

    Sharon died Saturday at the age of 85. He had spent the past eight years in a coma following a stroke.

    • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks near the flag draped coffin of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a memorial ceremony at Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Jan. 13, 2014.
    • Members of the Knesset guard carry the flag draped coffin of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as his family members walk behind during a memorial ceremony at Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Jan. 13, 2014.
    • Israel's President Shimon Peres carries a wreath to place next to the coffin of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Israeli Parliament, Jerusalem, Jan. 12, 2014. 
    • Israelis pass by the coffin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Knesset Plaza, Jerusalem, Jan. 12, 2014. 
    • Members of the Knesset Guard carry the coffin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Knesset Plaza, Jerusalem, Jan. 12, 2014. 
    • A worker prepares the grave for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his ranch, Havat Shikmim, in the northern Negev Desert, southern Israel, Jan. 12, 2014. 
    • Members of the Knesset Guard stand near the coffin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at  Knesset Plaza, Jerusalem, Jan. 12, 2014. 
    • Israelis pay their last respects as they stand near the coffin of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset, Jerusalem, Jan. 12, 2014. 

    A war hero and seasoned politician, he was known for his tough independence. He was revered by many Israelis, but criticized by others.

    Palestinians reviled him for his aggressive military tactics and construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

    Ariel Sharon

    • Born in 1928 in farming community north of Tel Aviv
    • Joined underground Jewish military organization Haganah in 1942
    • Fought as platoon commander in Arab-Israeli war of 1948-49
    • Led Commando Unit 101 that carries out reprisal raids in 1953
    • Led paratroopers in the 1956 Suez War
    • Elected member of parliament in 1973
    • Served as security advisor to then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin
    • Appointed defense minister in 1981
    • Led Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, resigns after being found responsible for failing to prevent massacres in Palestinian refugee camps
    • Appointed minister of housing and construction in 1990
    • Appointed foreign minister in 1997
    • Elected prime minister in 2001, one year after controversial visit to the Temple Mount
    • Directed the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005
    • Established the Kadima party in 2005, new elections set for March 2006
    • Has been in a coma since a massive stroke on Jan. 4, 2006
    He was criticized for the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and held partially responsible for failing to prevent the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in two refugee camps in Beirut that year.

    He led a military offensive into Gaza in 2005 in which more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed. But he subsequently unilaterally withdrew Israeli soldiers and settlers from the enclave.

    Some residents of Gaza celebrated and handed out candies when Sharon's death was announced.

    The spokesman of the Hamas group that gained control of Gaza in 2007 following the Israeli withdrawal, Sami Abu Zuhri, called it a historic moment.

    He said the death of Sharon after eight years in a coma is something from God and an example to all tyrants.

    A senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization that controls the West Bank, Wasel Abu Yusef, said Sharon tried to uproot the Palestinian nation from its land and prevent the establishment of the Palestinian state.

    He said he thinks the Palestinian nation connects the death of Sharon with what he did, the offensives and the crimes against the Palestinian people.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.