Former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir mourned

Yitzhak Shamir, who led Israel for two terms as prime minister, has died at the age of 96.

The statesman, who was 96, is to be buried on Monday. His body will lie in state at the Knesset until then.

The Likud politician, prime minister between 1983 and 1984 and 1986 and 1992, retired from public life in 1996. He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and lived in a care home before his death.

A former Mossad agent and a hardliner who embraced a view of Greater Israel, Mr Shamir also served as Israel’s foreign minister and the Knesset speaker. His time as prime minister saw him oversee Israel during the first Gulf War, when Iraq fired scud missiles at the Jewish state, as well as after the first Intifada began in 1987.

Before the declaration of independence in 1948, Mr Shamir was active in Lehi, the militant anti-British underground fighters group.

He was born in Poland but moved to Mandate Palestine before the Holocaust, in which members of his family perished.

He was the second-longest serving prime minister in Israeli history, after David Ben-Gurion.

“He belonged to the generation of giants that founded the state of Israel and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people in its own land," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a tribute. “He led Israel with deep loyalty to both the people and the land."

“Yitzhak Shamir dedicated his life to the state of Israel,” said the White House in a statement. “From his days working for Israel's independence to his service as prime minister, he strengthened Israel's security and advanced the partnership between the United States and Israel.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Israel.”

Last updated: 1:56pm, July 1 2012