As Sharon Lies in State at Knesset, IDF Considers Deploying Iron Dome Near Funeral Site
by Gidon Ben-zvi
As Israelis lined up to pay tribute to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died Saturday at 85, eight years after suffering a massive stroke that left him comatose, the IDF was considering the possibility of deploying the Iron Dome missile defense system to Israel’s south, Israeli daily Walla reported on Sunday.
Sharon will be laid to rest on Monday at his family’s Sycamore Ranch in the Negev. Due to heightened security for arriving high level officials from around the world, all central routes leading to the ranch will be closed off.
Furthermore, the ranch’s proximity to the Gaza Strip has set off alarm bells inside of Israel’s defense establishment. The fear of rockets being launched by Palestinian-Arab terrorist organizations operating inside of the Hamas-controlled Strip just as world leaders are paying their final respects to Israel’s 11th Prime Minister is palpable, Walla said.
As a result, the IDF is expected to raise its alert level across Israel’s south. The Iron Dome deployment and increased air surveillance in the area are among the measures under consideration.
On Monday, eight IDF generals will carry Sharon’s casket from the Knesset to the site of the funeral. The eight include IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, Israel Navy chief Ram Rothberg, Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel, GOC Southern Command Shlomo (Sami) Turgeman and Military Intelligence Director Aviv Kochavi. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres will also be attending, Walla reports.
Among the foreign dignitaries expected to be at Sharon’s funeral are U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Sharon will be buried next to his wife Lily in an intimate ceremony that will only include relatives and senior officials. Lower ranked officials will be able to watch the funeral proceedings from a short distance away while the general public will have the option of gathering at the bottom of the hill where the Sharon family ranch is located, Walla said.