Body of Israel's Ariel Sharon to lie in state

Associated Press
FILE - In this Sunday May 16, 2004 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pauses during a news conference in his Jerusalem office regarding education reform. Sharon, the hard-charging Israeli general and prime minister who was admired and hated for his battlefield exploits and ambitions to reshape the Middle East, died Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The 85-year-old Sharon had been in a coma since a debilitating stroke eight years ago. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
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JERUSALEM (AP) — The body of Ariel Sharon, Israel's hard-charging former prime minister and general arrived at Israel's parliament building in Jerusalem on Sunday, where it will lie in state a day after he died aged 85.

"The public will be able to pay its respects until 18:00 (1600 GMT)," the prime minister's office said in a statement. Thousands of Israelis are expected to pay tribute at the Knesset, police said.

A state memorial is planned for Monday with the participation of Israeli and world leaders, the prime minister's office said.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and others will attend, it added.

Afterward Sharon's body will be taken by military convey for burial at his ranch.

One of Israel's most iconic and controversial figures, Sharon had been in a coma for eight years after a devastating stroke incapacitated him at the peak of his political power.

News of his passing and tales of his exploits dominated Israel's newspapers and TV stations Sunday.

Sharon's career stretched across Israel's 65-year existence and his life was closely intertwined with the country's history.

As one of Israel's most famous generals, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders.

Historians credit him with helping turn the tide of the 1973 Mideast war when Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on the solemn fasting day of Yom Kippur, causing large Israeli casualties.

As a politician, he became known as "the bulldozer" — a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done. He was elected prime minister in 2001.

In 2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. It was a shocking turnaround for a man who had been a leading player in building Jewish settlements.

He later bolted from his hard-line Likud Party and established the centrist Kadima Party. It seemed he was on his way to an easy re-election when he suffered the stroke in January 2006.

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