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”.
Thousands of mourners paid their final respects to Ariel Sharon
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.
Ariel Sharon’s condition is now critical, “with some danger to life”, his doctors have said.
Former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, 85, has been in a coma since January 4, 2006.
He is suffering from a malfunction of several organs including the kidneys, they said.
Ariel Sharon became prime minister in 2001 and suffered a mild stroke in 2005.
After a second, major stroke in 2006, he went into a coma and has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since.
Ariel Sharon’s condition is now critical, with some danger to life
Giving the first official medical statement on the current situation, Professor Zeev Rotstein of Tel Hashomer hospital, said: “I am no prophet, but the feeling of his doctors and his sons… is that there has been a change for the worse.
“We are defining his condition as critical, and there is definitely a threat to his life. The feeling of everyone… is that this decline is very serious.”
Ariel Sharon’s family is at his bedside. One of his sons, Omri, told the Jerusalem Post: “We have hope, we always have hope.”
Having fought in all of Israel’s wars since the state’s founding in 1948, Ariel Sharon is admired by many Israelis as a great military leader, but is reviled by Palestinians.
Former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s health condition has seriously deteriorated, the hospital treating him has announced.
Ariel Sharon, 85, has been in a coma for almost eight years.
Israeli media reports say he has suffered renal failure.
Ariel Sharon became prime minister in 2001, but in December 2005 he suffered a mild stroke.
Ariel Sharon has been in a coma for almost eight years and now he is suffering renal failure
After a second, major stroke in 2006, Ariel Sharon went into a coma and has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since.
Having fought in three Middle Eastern wars, Ariel Sharon is admired by many Israelis as a great military leader, but reviled by Palestinians.
While serving as defense minister in 1982, Ariel Sharon masterminded Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. During the invasion, Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps under Israeli control.
Ariel Sharon was a keen promoter of the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. He also initiated the construction of the controversial West Bank barrier.