- POSTED: 13 Jan 2014 16:34
This graph is an experimental feature that tracks number of views over time.
Israel buries its former premier Ariel Sharon, one of the country's most skilled but controversial political and military leader.
JERUSALEM: Israel on Monday buried its former premier Ariel Sharon, one of the country's most skilled but controversial political and military leaders who was hailed internationally for his tireless dedication to the Jewish state.
Sharon died on Saturday after spending eight years in a coma that struck him at the height of a decades-long career which saw him lauded as a military hero and statesman, but also reviled as a warmongering criminal. He was 85.
He will be laid to rest in a ceremony at his family's Sycamore Ranch in the southern Negev desert, which lies a few miles from the northern border of the Gaza Strip.
At a memorial service outside the parliament in Jerusalem which was packed with Israeli leaders and a handful of foreign diplomats, Sharon was remembered for his lifelong commitment to the security of Israel but also for his stubborn ruthlessness which earned him the nickname "The Bulldozer".
"You never rested in service of your people, when defending your land and making it flourish," said Israeli President Shimon Peres standing in the Knesset plaza, where Sharon's flag-draped coffin stood on a black marble plinth.
"The land from which you came will embrace you in the warm arms of the history of our nation to which you added an unforgettable chapter," he said under bright blue skies as a row of Israeli flags flapped in the background.
In an address to the mourners, among them around 20 foreign diplomats, US Vice President Joe Biden remembered Sharon as "a powerful man" whose presence "filled the room."
"He was indomitable," said Biden, hailing him for his political courage in pushing through Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
"Prime Minister Sharon was a complex man... (who) lived in a complex time in a complex neighbourhood," he said.
Former British premier Tony Blair remembered him as "passionate" about his country but a man who "could leave considerable debris in his wake."
"Tough but shy, indomitable but a servant to his people," Blair said. "He was a giant in this land."
Following the memorial, his coffin will be taken by convoy for a military ceremony at a site in Latrun on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, where Sharon was wounded in the 1948 war of independence.
The convoy will then move on to Sharon's ranch for a military funeral at 1200 GMT after which he will be buried next to his second wife, Lily.
Given the burial site's proximity to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the large numbers of mourners likely to attend the funeral, the police and army have beefed up security in the area and around the Palestinian enclave.
Channel 2 television said the army had changed the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defence system to counter possible rocket attacks. A military spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.
Once known chiefly as a ruthless military leader who fought in all of Israel's major wars, Sharon switched to politics in 1973, championing the development of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
He was long considered a pariah for his personal but "indirect" responsibility in the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel's Lebanese Phalangist allies in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
His early career as a warrior earned him the moniker "The Bulldozer" but most world leaders chose to remember the politician who surprised many by masterminding Israel's withdrawal of 8,000 settlers from Gaza in 2005.
That move was part of a policy of separation from the Palestinians that earned him the hatred of his former nationalist allies and also led to the construction of a sprawling barrier along Israel's border with the West Bank.
Born in British-mandate Palestine on February 26, 1928, to immigrants from Belarus, Sharon was just 17 when he joined the Haganah, the militia that fought in the 1948 war of independence and eventually became the Israeli army.