Israel begins a short period of mourning for ex-PM Ariel Sharon who died at 85 of heart failure after 8 years in a coma.
The public will pay their respects when Ariel Sharon’s body lies in state on Sunday before a private burial on Monday.
Israeli and world figures have paid tribute to a man who fought in four major wars before taking to the political stage.
But there was little sorrow among Palestinians who saw him as an enemy.
The head of the Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv confirmed Ariel Sharon’s death on Saturday afternoon, the Jewish Sabbath, more than a week after it emerged that his health was in decline.
Gilad Sharon, one of his two sons, said outside the hospital: “He has gone. He went when he decided to go.”
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke of a leader “who dedicated his life to the state of Israel”.
Israel’s President Shimon Peres, a long-time friend and political rival who joined a unity government with Ariel Sharon in 2001, said he was “an exceptional man and an exceptional commander who moved his people and loved them and the people loved him”.
Ariel Sharon, known as “The Bulldozer”, was a giant of Israel’s military and political scene whose term as prime minister ended abruptly when he had a major stroke that put him in a coma in January 2006.
Months before his stroke, he had guided Israelis through a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, with the declared aim of easing tensions with the Palestinians.
Ariel Sharon’s reputation among Palestinians was such that, in the Gaza Strip, sweets were handed out in celebration of his death. One senior official in the Fatah movement said he was a criminal whom Palestinians had wanted to see on trial.
Palestinian political figure Mustafa Barghouti said while no-one should gloat at his death, Ariel Sharon had taken “a path of war and aggression” and had left “no good memories with Palestinians”.
Ariel Sharon’s coffin will be placed at a plaza in front of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in Jerusalem on Sunday to allow the public to pay their respects for six hours, from 12:00 to 18:00 local time.
A ceremony will be held there on Monday morning, which international figures are to attend. US Vice-President Joe Biden will lead a US delegation and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also expected to go.
A few hours later Ariel Sharon will be buried in a private ceremony at his farm in the Negev desert where his late wife Lily was laid to rest in 2000.
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