January 13

Israel holds memorial ceremony for Ariel Sharon

By Josef Federman
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Members of the Knesset guard carry the coffin of late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset Plaza in Jerusalem on Monday. The ceremony was to be followed by a private burial on the family’s desert ranch in southern Israel.

The Associated Press

Sharon’s coffin has been lying in state at the Knesset’s outdoor plaza where Israelis from all walks of life paid respects throughout Sunday.

With Sharon’s two sons, Omri and Gilad looking on, Monday’s ceremony took place under a mild, winter sun. In addition to Biden and Blair, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and foreign ministers of Australia and Germany were among those in attendance. Even Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, sent a low-level diplomat, its embassy said.

After the ceremony ended, the closed coffin, draped in a blue and white Israeli flag, was placed in a military vehicle and driven in a police-escorted convoy toward Sharon’s ranch.

The convoy was to make a stop at Latrun, site of a bloody battle where Sharon was wounded during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, for a brief ceremony before continuing south.

Crowds stood along the roadside and on bridges, snapping pictures and getting a final glimpse of the coffin.

Sharon’s life will be remembered for its three distinct stages: First, was his eventful and contentious time in uniform, including leading a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed 69 Arabs, as well as his heroics in the 1973 Mideast war.

Then came his years as a vociferous political operator who helped create Israel’s settlement movement and masterminded the divisive Lebanon invasion in 1982. He was branded as indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. An uproar over the massacre cost him his job.

Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and statesman, capped by the dramatic Gaza withdrawal. Sharon appeared to be cruising toward re-election when he suffered the second, devastating stroke in January 2006.

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