Israelis eulogise Sharon as 'brave warrior' but view isn't universal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 5:41am

"Brave warrior" to "war criminal" - reaction to the death of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was across the political spectrum.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sharon's memory "will forever be held in the heart of the nation". Netanyahu called Sharon "a central part in Israel's struggle for security" and a "brave warrior and a great military leader".

Sharon's former deputy, Ehud Olmert, eulogised Sharon: "[He] stood at the front line of fire in the place where the fate of the state of Israel was determined."

President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and rival, said Sharon was "a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him".

"He was one of Israel's great protectors and most important architects, who knew no fear and certainly never feared vision," Peres added.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he remembered reading about Sharon as a lawyer in Boston and marvelling at his commitment to cause and country. "I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became prime minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace," he said. The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said Sharon's death was a "historic moment", marking the "disappearance of a criminal whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood".

Tawfik Tirawi, Palestinian intelligence chief when Sharon was prime minister, said Sharon wanted to erase the Palestinian people from the map. "He wanted to kill us, but at the end of the day, Sharon is dead and the Palestinian people are alive."

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press