Former PM Ariel Sharon have been described as an “indomitable” man devoted to the security of his people at his state memorial in Israel.
Israel’s current PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Ariel Sharon was “one of the greatest military commanders the Jewish people have had”.
Ariel Sharon, regarded by many Israelis as a great statesmen but widely loathed in the Arab world, died on Saturday at the age of 85 after 8 years in a coma.
He will be buried later at the family ranch in the Negev desert.
Thousands of mourners paid their final respects on Sunday, when Ariel Sharon’s coffin lay in state outside parliament – the Knesset – in Jerusalem.
There were some 20 foreign delegates and hundreds of Israeli dignitaries attending Monday’s memorial service.
They included US Vice-President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Middle East international envoy Tony Blair, Czech PM Jiri Rusnok and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Delivering the first speech at the memorial, President Shimon Peres said Ariel Sharon was a “living military legend” who also always dreamed of peace for Israel.
He said Ariel Sharon’s shoulders had “borne the weight of the security of our people”.
Benjamin Netanyahu said Ariel Sharon’s “unique contribution to the security of the state is engraved in our historical writings”, adding: “Your memory will be part of this nation forever.”
Joe Biden described Ariel Sharon as an “indomitable bulldozer… The security of his people was his unwavering mission”.
The US vice-president also told the Israeli people: “As long as there is a United States of America, you are not alone.”
Describing Ariel Sharon as “bold, unorthodox and unyielding”, but also “warm-hearted, humorous, charming and passionate”, Tony Blair called the former PM “a giant of this land” who would “take his place in the history of Israel with pride”.
Ariel Sharon’s body was then taken in a funeral cortege for a brief military ceremony at Latrun, west of Jerusalem, where he was severely wounded in the 1948 war of independence.
His final journey is to the Sycamore ranch he owned near Sderot, close to Gaza.
Ariel Sharon will be buried beside his wife Lili, who died in 2000.
Because of its proximity to Gaza, three security rings are being placed around the farm.
The inner ring closest to the grave will be for family and invited guests alone, the second will be open to the public and the third will be a security measure surrounding the perimeter.
An Israeli security source said the Hamas government in Gaza had been warned to prevent any rocket attacks.
The Israeli military says a battery of the Iron Dome missile defense system is located nearby and that two rockets were launched from Gaza on Monday morning but did not reach Israel.
No-one from the Arab world, Africa or Latin America was attending Monday’s ceremonies.
[youtube HqDzak3VHSc 650]