JERUSALEM Jan 13 Israel beefed up security for
former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral near the Gaza
border on Monday and warned the enclave's Palestinian rulers not
to allow rocket fire during the ceremony, which U.S. Vice
President Joe Biden planned to attend.
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, before an afternoon funeral
at the Sharon family farm about 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 the
vice president would also travel to the burial at Sycamore Farm.
An Israeli security source said Israel had "passed the
message" to Gaza authorities to prevent any rocket fire during
the funeral. Gaza is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement, which
has fought several rounds of violence with Israel over the past
"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.
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.
Channel Two television reported that Israel was redeploying
its Iron Dome rocket interceptor for improved protection of the
farm, which had been hit by Gaza-launched rockets in the past.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army did not
comment on such matters, but that its forces "were taking part
in the security arrangements for the funeral".
Since a 2012 eight-day war with Israel, Hamas has largely
held fire but smaller militant groups have occasionally
challenged its authority with their own rocket attacks into
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Meredith Mazzilli)