Former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon dies after 8 years in coma

Ariel Sharon

Mr. Sharon was in coma for eight years.

Ariel Sharon, one of Israel’s most powerful leaders, who led several military campaigns and became the country’s prime minister before suffering a devastating stroke in 2006, has died.

Mr. Sharon died on Saturday at the age of 85 after a long illness. He had spent eight years in coma after two strokes, and failed to regain consciousness.

President Shimon Peres of Israel confirmed the death in a statement on Saturday, saying that Mr. Sharon had “lost his final battle.”

In a tribute, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “his memory will live forever in the nation’s heart”. He was “a great warrior and military leader”, Mr. Netanyahu said in a Twitter post.

The director of the Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv said Mr Sharon died on Saturday afternoon of heart failure. Professor Shlomo Noy told reporters his health had declined for the past week and a half.

“Over the past week he struggled with surprising strength and determination against the deterioration in his condition. Today he departed peacefully with his loving family at his side,” he said.

An iron-fisted general and former defence minister, Mr. Sharon was a nonconformist in war and politics who held nearly all of Israel’s top government posts. In many ways, he reshaped Israel’s prolonged conflict with Palestine.

He repeatedly invaded disputed territories and was reviled by Palestinians as an oppressive and acrimonious figure. To many Israelis, however, the former PM was a valiant warrior, having led decisive campaigns in several wars.

He was a commander in the army from the birth of Israel in 1948. He fought in Israel’s war of independence that year, and was indicted over his role in refugee camp massacres in the 1982 Lebanon war.

He suffered the stroke that would be his final after the height of his political career and power. He did not regain consciousness until his death Saturday.

Mr. Sharon became Prime Minister in 2001 and in 2005 completed a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, barely a year before he suffered a massive stroke.

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