Israel honored former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Monday during a state memorial ceremony held in his honor. Numerous heads of states and dignitaries attended the service including Vice President Joe Biden, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sharon died Saturday at age 85 at Chaim Sheba Medical Center, just outside of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg.com reported. He suffered from a stroke in January 2006 and had remained in coma ever since.
"[Sharon] had a North Star from which he never deviated," Biden told the crowd gathered at Sharon's memorial service. "His North Star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they resided."
"May the bond between Israel and the United States never, ever be broken," Biden said.
According to the BBC, Netanyahu described Sharon as "one of the greatest military commanders the Jewish people have had."
Israeli President Shimon Peres honored Sharon calling him "an exceptional soldier," and "a commander who knew how to win," NBC News noted.
After the memorial, Sharon was taken to his final resting place; his family farm in Southern Israel.
Sharon was a controversial figure, best known for his aggressive military tactics and building Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, The New York Times reported. But he also made a historic move towards peace with the Palestinians when he ordered 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip, right before the stroke that left him incapacitated.
"His death has prompted a round of reflections on whether matters might have been different if he had been able to continue," BBC Jerusalem News correspondent Yolande Knell wrote.
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