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Ariel Sharon death: Israel mourns; Palestine celebrates

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Jerusalem, Jan 12: The former and 11th prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon who passed away at the age of 85 on Saturday following a prolonged state of comatose in Tel Aviv was laid to rest on Monday.

As Israelis mourned and paid last respects to its controversial hero, his death led to prompt celebrations in Palestine.

For Israelis, Sharon was known as a "bulldozer", while for the Palestinians, he was a "butcher".

The 85-year-old leader suffered a stroke in 2006 and slipped into a coma. His condition deteriorated last week after he suffered a kidney failure. He died at the Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv.

State Memorial Ceremony held for Sharon

On Monday, a state memorial ceremony at the Knesset Plaza in Jerusalem was held for the last rites of the late leader.

Israeli officials and international dignitaries remembered him as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting his country's security.

Shimon Peres, the President of Israel described Sharon as, "Arik was a man of the land. He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I didn't always agree with Arik and he didn't always agree with me", while adding that "he was one of the big warriors" for the nation of Israel.

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 towards Sycamore Ranch Sharon's farm in Negev in southern Israel.

For Israelis, Sharon was a 'bulldozer' but for Palestinians, he was a 'butcher'.

Sharon was laid to rest in state funeral at 2.26 pm, next to his second wife, Lily Sharon, who died of cancer 14 years ago. His first wife Margalit was killed in a car accident in 1962. In 1968, his 11-year-old son Gur was killed while playing with a gun.

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

Palestinians celebrate "Butcher" Ariel Sharon's death

According to The Guardian report, many Palestinians expressed joy at the news of the former Israeli leader's death at the weekend.

A man named Walid told the Lebanese Daily Star. "My heart beats with happiness because he is dead."

Another resident, Makki, told AFP: "I was relieved when I found out that Sharon was dead. I think the years he spent in a coma were punishment from God for the crimes he committed."

In Gaza, militant organisations distributed sweets in celebration of Sharon's death.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said his death represented the "end of one of the most arrogant criminals in the region, who committed crimes against Palestinian, Lebanese and Egyptian people."

"The people of Gaza were more hopeful of victory and liberation following his death", he added.

"I am gloating over the death of Sharon. I know definitely he will be in hell," said 26-year-old Shireen Mortaja.

Ahmad Ajrami, 38, said: "I am sad Sharon died without being sentenced by the international criminal court, but I'm happy we got rid of him. All the time when he was in power, I wished him dead - but not that peaceful way."

Samir Kaloub, 40, said Sharon was evil "but he was loyal to his country and people. I wish we had a Palestinian or Arabic leader like him, to serve us as he served his people. We deserve someone to fight for our dignity and defend the Palestinian people."

In the West Bank, Said Kalifa said Sharon had committed crimes not just against the Palestinian people but all humanity. He recalled the killing of 69 people - most of them women and children - and the destruction of more than 40 homes in the village of Qibya in 1953 by soldiers under Sharon's command. "He lived as a coward and died as a coward," said Kalifa, 47, from Ramallah. "His hands are covered in Palestinian blood. The death of this tyrant is a holy day for the Palestinian people."

Sami Abu Shareh, a driver from the village of Abu Kash, near Ramallah, said Sharon was responsible for triggering the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, by his deliberately provocative visit to the Muslim holy site of Haram al-Sharif in September 2000. "He was a man of war and was responsible for our suffering from 1948 until now."

Hardline Jewish settlers in the West Bank also remembered Sharon with bitterness for his controversial withdrawal of troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005. Yaakov Katz, a former adviser to Sharon, told AFP: "History will not forget his crimes against the Jewish people."

Emily Amrusi, a former spokeswoman for the Gaza settlers, told Israel's Channel 2: "It is hard to forgive him. It's hard to see his merits when what he left behind is ruins and a split nation."

Ariel Sharon- The first prime minister of Israel to visit India

Sharon was the first prime minister of Israel to visit India. He flew to New Delhi at the invitation of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

OneIndia News

(With agency inputs)

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