Israel Buries Ariel Sharon
2 rockets fired from Gaza ahead of funeral
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2014 4:05 AM CST
Updated Jan 13, 2014 7:33 AM CST
Israeli soldiers from a paratrooper unit rehearse at the grave site for late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon outside his ranch in southern Israel.   (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
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(Newser) – Israel has paid its final respects to divisive former leader Ariel Sharon, who died over the weekend after eight years in a coma. World leaders and Israeli officials gathered for a state memorial service in Jerusalem, which will be followed by a second funeral service at the Sharon family ranch near the Gaza border where he will be buried next to his wife, reports the Guardian. The Israeli military says two rockets were fired from Gaza just before the service but they do not appear to have landed in Israel, the AP reports.

Critics denounce Sharon as a war criminal but funeral speakers including Joe Biden and Tony Blair were full of praise at the Jerusalem service, reports Reuters. Biden paid tribute to Sharon's decision to pull out of the Gaza Strip, while acknowledging that he had serious differences with US leaders. "The security of his people was always Arik's unwavering mission—an unbreakable commitment to the future of Jews, whether 30 years or 300 years from now," Biden said, describing Sharon as a complex man who lived in complex times. "Arik was never uncertain. But there were times when he acted, and those actions earned him controversy and even condemnation," he said. "And in certain instances American leaders, American presidents, had profound differences with him. And they were never shy about stating them. Nor was he ever shy about stating his position."