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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid