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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid