Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Remembered

A memorial service was held Monday for former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He died on Saturday at the age of 85 after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke. Current and former officials from around the world are in Israel, including Vice President Joe Biden.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's get the latest now from Israel, where former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be buried today. Sharon died Saturday, after spending eight years in a coma. Here's NPR's Emily Harris.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: The memorial service for Ariel Sharon opened with a prayer.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing in foreign language)

HARRIS: Israel's political elite and foreign dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden, sat near Sharon's coffin, which was draped in the white and blue colors of the Israeli flag outside Israel's parliament. Israeli President Shimon Peres eulogized Sharon.

PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: We are saying goodbye to you today, Peres said. He called Sharon the shoulder on which Israel's security rested. Israeli Itzhak Dugo visited Sharon's coffin yesterday.

ITZHAK DUGO: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: We wanted to pay our respects to the man who led us a commander and prime minister, Dugo said. He's one of the leaders who gave us the chance to live here. Today, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that leaked documents show Sharon was considering moves towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians when he fell into a coma. He had pulled Israeli soldiers and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005. But Palestinians remember Sharon as a man of war. Ahmed Rady is a Palestinian living in Gaza.

AHMED RADY: I don't hate him, but I feel sorry for a soul like Ariel Sharon, who caused so much death and suffer for a lot of people.

HARRIS: In Gaza, some people handed out sweets to mark Sharon's death Saturday. Ariel Sharon's final resting place will be on his family ranch in southern Israel. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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