Israel beefs up security near Gaza border for Sharon funeral

Israel beefs up security near Gaza border for Sharon funeral

PanARMENIAN.Net - Israel beefed up security for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral near the Gaza border on Monday, Jan 13, and warned the enclave's Palestinian rulers not to allow rocket fire during the ceremony, according to Reuters.

Sharon died at the age of 85 on Saturday after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke. A memorial service will be held on Monday in parliament in Jerusalem and an afternoon funeral near the Sharon family farm some 10 km (6 miles) from Gaza.

Foreign dignitaries, including Biden, were due to attend the state ceremony for Sharon in Jerusalem. The White House said Biden would also travel to the burial at Sycamore Farm, in the southern Negev desert.

An Israeli security source said Israel had "passed the message" to Gaza authorities to prevent any rocket fire during the funeral. Gaza is governed by the Islamist Hamas movement, which has fought several rounds of violence with Israel over the past few years.

"It was made clear to them that tomorrow would be a very bad day for anyone there to test Israel's patience," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, according to Reuters.

There was no immediate response from the Hamas government. Egyptian officials, who in the past have served as mediators between Israel and Hamas, were unavailable for comment.

At times of heightened tension Israel steps up aerial patrols of Gaza with helicopters and drones designed to spot Palestinian rocket crews and hit them with guided missiles before they can carry out a launch.

The rockets are often inaccurate and carry small warheads, causing relatively little damage. But when fired in salvoes they spread panic and paralyze routine life in south Israel.

Security sources said Israel had deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor near Sycamore Farm, which had been hit by Gaza-launched rockets in the past.

Israel's Army Radio there had been no intelligence indications that Palestinians were planning to shell the funeral. But authorities were taking no chances.

"We are taking the full range of possible scenarios into account," southern police commander Yoram Halevy told the station. "The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared, informed and ready to respond if so required."

Since a 2012 eight-day war with Israel, which killed some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis, Hamas has largely held fire but smaller militant groups have occasionally challenged its authority with their own rocket attacks into the Jewish state.

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