Middle East

Israel's Ariel Sharon to be buried today

Former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon will be buried on Monday afternoon at his southern ranch after a memorial service earlier in the day in parliament, army radio said.

According to the report, Sharon's coffin will be placed at parliament in Jerusalem on Sunday to enable the public to pay their last respects.

Army radio said the coffin would be there between 1000 GMT and 1600 GMT.

Obituary: Ariel Sharon

Monday's proceedings will start with a ceremony at Jerusalem's Knesset, or parliament, at 0730 GMT, the report said.

Vice President Joe Biden will lead a US delegation to the memorial service, and other world leaders were expected to attend.

The funeral will begin around 1200GMT at Sharon's ranch in the Negev desert in southern Israel.

Concern over Israeli plans to build 1,800 settler homes

The 85-year-old died in hospital near Tel Aviv Saturday after eight years in a coma.

President Barack Obama led US tributes to late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday, remembering him as "a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel."

"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel," a White House statement said.

"We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security. We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security."


The view from much of the Arab world was less positive, including amongst Palestinian Australians.

"When we heard the news this morning, to be honest, normally we offer condolences when you hear about someone's death, and our culture would like us to forgive and offer condolences", Reeda Kassis of the Australian Palestinian Professionals Association said.

"However for this occasion that's something that we can not do because we never can forget the brutality that this man has caused to the Palestinian people. All the massacres, it's very hard to forgive such a person that (was not brought) to accountability."

"We can not forget because the action of what his did, the action of his policies which are still exercised until this moment. The apartheid state, the ethnic cleansing, it's all part of this culture so we can not forget."

Dr Colin Rubenstein of The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council said Sharon was a pragmatist.

"He showed himself prepared to commit to Israel's security. The intifada, which flowed from the breakdown of the talks was something he had to deal with. Over a thousand Israeli civilians were killed in that wave of terrorist attacks. He built the security fence which proved to be extremely effective and then he showed that streak of pragmatism and concern for not only Israel's interest but the genuine persuit of reconciliation and compromised peace", Dr Rubenstein said. 

"He dismantled 21 settlements in Gaza, as well as four in the West Bank, which of course set the template for Israeli consensus on moving forward on a two state outcome. Since he did that I think overwhelmingly Israelis accept the need for a two state outcome, and I think Sharon was disappointed with the reaction on the Palestinian side... But his legacy nonetheless has been in Israel overwhelmingly committed to that two state outcome, subject to a two state outcome with their partners, with the Palestinian state living along side Israel in peace."


In Beirut's Shatila Palestinian refugee camp Adel Makki rushed into the street Saturday to hand out sweets when he learned of the death of Sharon, the man Palestinians blame for a massacre of hundreds there and in the nearby Sabra camp.

"I was relieved when I found out that Sharon was dead. I think the (eight) years he spent in a coma were punishment from God for the crimes he committed," Makki, age 19, told AFP.

Over three days, beginning on September 16, 1982, hundreds of men, women and children were massacred in Sabra and Shatila on the southern outskirts of Beirut.

Some 500 more simply vanished without a trace, among them Makki's uncle.