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Ephraim Katzir, former Israeli president, dies

  • Story Highlights
  • Katzir, who died at 93, praised for his contributions to Israel's history
  • He served from 1973 to 1978 in ceremonial post of president
  • Katzir emigrated as a child from Ukraine to British-ruled Palestine
  • He was a member of Haganah, militant group that fought for Israel's independence
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Ephraim Katzir, Israel's fourth president and one of the county's pioneers, has died, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday.

Katzir was 93 years old.

"He was an historic figure who contributed to the development, security and establishment of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Katzir served in the ceremonial post from 1973 to 1978 during a pivotal period in Israel -- the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977.

Katzir emigrated at the age of 6 from Kiev, in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, to British-ruled Palestine. He was a member of the Haganah, the Jewish militia group that fought for Israel's independence.

A prominent biochemist and physicist, Katzir was one of the founding scientists of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

"He was a rare combination of personal ability and public mission," Netanyahu said.

"He divided his life between science and security, between voluntarism and education, between achievements and modesty."

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