Saturday 24 March 2018

Sharon laid to rest but not in peace

Militants fired rockets at neighbouring town

Members of the Knesset guard carry the coffin of Ariel Sharon
Members of the Knesset guard carry the coffin of Ariel Sharon
Former Israeli Prime minister, Ariel Sharon

Robert Tait

Even after Ariel Sharon was laid to rest, his old Palestinian adversaries, it seemed, were determined it was not going to be in peace.

Minutes after Mr Sharon was buried at his Negev ranch at a funeral attended by international dignitaries, militants in nearby Gaza served a symbolic reminder of the conflict that consumed the warrior-turned-statesman throughout his life by firing two rockets towards his final resting place.

The missiles, which appeared to be targeting the neighbouring town of Sderot rather than the funeral itself, landed harmlessly in an open area, said the Israeli military, which responded to by sending warplanes to bomb strongholds of Islamic Jihad.

Yet they seemed a fitting epitaph to a man who was revered by many Israelis as a brave military hero and vilified by Palestinians as a war criminal.

The career and legacy of Mr Sharon, who died on Saturday aged 85 after spending the last eight years of his life in a coma, was inextricably linked with Gaza. He indelibly marked the impoverished Palestinian territory by leading and authorising numerous deadly strikes against militant targets.

The stroke that felled and permanently incapacitated him in January 2006 happened shortly after he had riven the domestic political landscape by evacuating troops and 8,000 settlers in a unilateral "disengagement" plan that he presented as part of a peace strategy.

Even in the aftermath of his death, many of Mr Sharon's former supporters blame that "betrayal" for the countless rocket attacks.

It seemed appropriate then that the decorated former general's final burial place, on the grounds of his beloved Shikmim (Sycamore) Farm, should lie just six miles from Gaza, now run by the Islamist Hamas grouping.

Mr Sharon's final journey to the secluded Negev spot had an equally apt feel.


An unprepossessing army truck -- similar to the type that must have featured in many of his military campaigns -- transported his flag-draped coffin from Jerusalem, via Latrun, where he fought his first battle in Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

As the humble vehicle struggled up a hill towards the burial plot, its arrival drew shouts of respectful lamentation from the crowd of mourners, some of whom had come from across Israel.

It was Mr Sharon's dubious legacy that dictated the international guestlist was modest, with many countries not attending. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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