Israelis, world leaders mourn Sharon

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Reactions from Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as other world leaders, to the death of Ariel Sharon have been mixed.
Many world leaders have paid tribute to Ariel Sharon\’s significant role in Israeli history, and his critics also are speaking out. 
U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, sent their deepest condolences to Sharon\’s family and the people of Israel. They reaffirmed their "unshakable commitment" to Israel\’s security and to the goal of "two states living side-by-side in peace and security."
Israeli President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and rival of Sharon, called him a "brave soldier and daring leader" who loved his nation that also loved him.
In one of the first comments after announcement of his predecessor\’s death Saturday at a hospital near Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his "deep sorrow, and said Sharon\’s memory will live forever in the nation\’s heart. 
Palestinian leaders denounced Sharon, whom they had strongly opposed throughout his public life. The radical Islamist Hamas faction that now controls Gaza called him a "tyrant," and the leader of the Fatah movement, Jibril Rajoub, called Sharon a "criminal" and expressed regret he was never taken before the International Criminal Court. 
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Sharon "a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman." He praised the former prime minister for the "political courage" he displayed in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.
French President François Hollande said Sharon was a "major actor in the history of his country." Britain\’s Prime Minister David Cameron said Israel has "lost an important leader." 
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he was looking forward to paying respects to Sharon by leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service. House Speaker John Boehner called Sharon one of the "greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history" with an "undisputed" devotion to peace.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sharon was prepared to make "tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace." Kerry said he and others honor his legacy by working to achieve his goal of a strong, peaceful Israel.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said in a joint statement they were honored to work with Sharon, argue with him and watch him try to find the right path for his country.
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 "Arik was not a warmonger. When it was necessary to fight, he stood at the forefront of the divisions in the most sensitive and painful places, but he was a smart and realistic person and understood well that there is a limit in our ability to conduct wars." – Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sharon\’s former deputy who took office after the 2006 stroke.
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 "On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel … We join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country." – President Barack Obama.
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 "He 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." – Tawfik Tirawi, who served as Palestinian intelligence chief when Sharon was prime minister.
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 "After eight years, he is going in the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood." – Khalil al-Haya, a leader in the Islamic militant group Hamas.
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 "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, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process. During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions … you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State." – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed "deep sorrow" over Sharon\’s passing hailing him as a "brave fighter" who continued to act for Israel as a politician and prime minister.
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 Sharon was "a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him." –  "Arik was not a warmonger. When it was necessary to fight, he stood at the forefront of the divisions in the most sensitive and painful places, but he was a smart and realistic person and understood well that there is a limit in our ability to conduct wars." – Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sharon\’s former deputy who took office after the 2006 stroke.
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 "On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel … We join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country." – President Barack Obama.
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 "He 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." – Tawfik Tirawi, who served as Palestinian intelligence chief when Sharon was prime minister.
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 "After eight years, he is going in the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood." – Khalil al-Haya, a leader in the Islamic militant group Hamas.
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 "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, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process. During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions … you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State." – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed "deep sorrow" over Sharon\’s passing hailing him as a "brave fighter" who continued to act for Israel as a politician and prime minister.
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 Sharon was "a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him." – President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and rival.
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 "He was the most present and influential person in the country in the past two generations. Lots of people wanted to influence and leave their mark, but nobody, for better and for worse, but nobody left such a deep mark in our history in the past few decades." – Yossi Sarid, a former opposition leader and rival of Sharon.
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 "When you look at Ariel Sharon\’s biography I think it is incomparable, a single person whose life story is so closely connected with the story of a country and with the story of a people." – Dov Weisglass, a longtime confidant of Sharon.
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 "He has gone. He went when he decided to go." – Son Gilad Sharon announcing his father\’s death.
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 Sharon "realized the reality and went for a very brave move that recognizes the fact that there is no choice but to separate from the Palestinians." – Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
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 "Ariel Sharon is one of the most significant figures in Israeli history and as Prime Minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated. Israel has today lost an important leader." – British Prime Minister David Cameron
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 "I was honored to know this man of courage and call him friend. He was a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East."- Former President George W. Bush, who was president while Sharon was Prime Minister.
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 "Jill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Ariel Sharon. We send our condolences to his family and to his beloved nation of Israel. I look forward to leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service, to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel." – Vice President Joe Biden
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 "Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip." – Spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General.
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 Russian President Vladimir Putin "highly praised Ariel Sharon\’s personal qualities and his activities to protect Israel\’s interests, noting a high respect for him among compatriots and his high authority in the international arena." – The Kremlin.
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 German Chancellor Angela Merkel "is mourning with the Israeli people" for Sharon. "With his courageous decision to withdraw the Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, he took a historic step on the path to a deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution." – Steffen Seibert, Merkel\’s spokesman.
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 "His passing is another grim reminder that years of virtual impunity for rights abuses have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer." – Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director of Human Rights Watch.
Source: VOA and agencies

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