Sharon buried in Israel state ceremony

Former prime minister's coffin lowered into ground by Israeli generals, as military rabbi performs ceremony of mourning.

    Israel's former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has been buried at his ranch kilometres from the occupied Gaza Strip in the southern Negev desert.

    Eight generals carried Sharon's coffin to the grave on Saturday alongside that of his second wife, as a Jewish cantor intoned a prayer for the dead, the AFP news agency has reported.

    Sharon died on Saturday after eight years in a coma that struck him at the height of a decades-long career in which he was both lauded as a military hero and statesman, but also reviled as a warmongering criminal. He was 85.

    Removing the blue and white Israeli flag draped over it, the generals lowered the coffin into the ground, then began filling the grave with dirt.

    In accordance with tradition, a military rabbi went to Sharon's two sons and made a symbolic cut in each of their shirts as a sign of mourning. 

    Sharon, who was born into a farming community north of Tel Aviv in 1928, had wanted to be buried at his family home in Sycamore Ranch, which lies kilometres from the occupied Gaza Strip.

    Hightened security

    Two projectiles were fired from Gaza, striking an area close to the ranch, a military spokesman told the AFP news agency. The rounds had targeted the town of Sderot, 4km from the burial site.

    The Israeli station, Channel Two television, reported earlier that Israel was redeploying its Iron Dome rocket interceptor for improved protection of Sycamore Ranch, which has been hit by rockets in the past.

    Thousands of Israelis paid their respects to the former leader on Sunday, as his body laid in state in front of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

    Sharon fought in all of Israel's major wars, but switched to politics in 1973, pushing for development of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

    Among those attending Monday's service were Sharon's two sons, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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