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Israel bids farewell to Ariel Sharon

Sunday, 12 January 2014 - 12:12pm IST | Place: JERUSALEM | Agency: PTI
The farewell ceremony will be followed by a state funeral at his Sycamore Ranch home in south Israel tomorrow.

Israel bid farewell today to its former prime minister Ariel Sharon, one of the most prominent military generals in the country's history and a controversial figure who died after being in coma for eight years.

The farewell ceremony will be followed by a state funeral at his Sycamore Ranch home in south Israel tomorrow.

The casket of Sharon, who died yesterday at the age of 85 despite efforts to stabilise him, will be placed in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) plaza from 12:00 noon until 18:00 today so that the people can pay their last respects.

A Knesset memorial service in honour of the departed leader will be held tomorrow morning at 09:30 am, and at 14:00 pm he will be laid to rest beside his wife Lily at Anemones Hill nearby the Sharon family's northern Negev Sycamore Ranch.

The Knesset's Ceremonies Committee, headed by Minister Limor Livnat, met last night and confirmed the funeral arrangements.

"Following a memorial service in the Knesset Sharon's funeral procession will leave towards the Sycamore Ranch for a small service. The funeral itself will be a state funeral and the ceremony a military one. Six army generals will be his pallbearers," Livnat announced.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Sharon's two sons Omri and Gilad, US Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be among those expected to speak at the service, she said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also likely to attend Sharon's last rites, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Sharon, a hardliner revered by Israelis as "Mr Security" for his contributions in all the major wars fought by Tel Aviv and reviled across the Arab world as the "butcher of Sabra and Shatila", was elected prime minister in 2001 and served until he suffered a stroke that left him comatose in January 2006.

A controversial military leader, Sharon had a long and tumultuous political career and his ruthless methods earned him the moniker "The Bulldozer".

While serving as defence minister in 1982, he masterminded Israel's invasion of Lebanon. During the invasion, Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps - Sabra and Shatila - under Israeli control.

Sharon was the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in 2003, eleven years after the two countries established diplomatic ties.

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