Tributes and criticism as Ariel Sharon dies

Saturday 11 January 2014 22.51
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Ariel Sharon was a divisive figure in life, and his death has provoked diverging reactions
Ariel Sharon was a divisive figure in life, and his death has provoked diverging reactions
Israeli President Shimon Peres pays tribute to Mr Sharon
Israeli President Shimon Peres pays tribute to Mr Sharon
Some Palestinians celebrated news of the death
Some Palestinians celebrated news of the death

World leaders have paid tribute to late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, though opponents of the former army general celebrated the news of his death.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said: "Arik was a valorous soldier and a bold statesman who contributed much to the security and building up of the State of Israel.

"Arik loved his people, and his people loved him," Mr Peres said, using Mr Sharon’s nickname.             

"He knew no fear and never feared pursuing a vision."

President Barack Obama led US tributes to Mr Sharon, remembering him as "a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel".

"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel," a White House statement said.

Vice President Joe Biden will lead US representatives at Mr Sharon's memorial service, the White House added.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called Mr Sharon "one of the most significant figures in Israeli history", saying he "took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace".

French President Francois Hollande said: "Ariel Sharon ... has been a major actor in the history of his country. After a long military and political career, he made the choice to turn towards dialogue with Palestinians."

Palestinians celebrated in the streets of Gaza to mark the death.

Others in the coastal enclave burned posters with pictures of Mr Sharon.

Palestinians accused Sharon of sparking their “Intifada” with a provocative visit to the al Aqsa mosque plaza in Jerusalem's Old City.

He further embittered them with a crushing army sweep of self-rule areas of the West Bank in 2002 after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings, and his siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah compound.

"The Palestinian people remember what Sharon did and tried to do to our people and their dream of forming a state," Wael Abu Youself, a senior member of Abbas's umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation said.             

"Despite the settlements and wars that he launched against us, here and in Lebanon and with the war crime of Sabra and Shatila [camps], Sharon has departed and the Palestinian people remain on their land."

Keywords: ariel sharon