UK & World News

  • 9 January 2014, 17:09

Israel's Ex-PM Ariel Sharon 'Close To Death'

The hospital treating Ariel Sharon has said the former Israeli leader's condition has deteriorated and he is "close to death".

Mr Sharon, who has been comatose since suffering a stroke eight years ago, suffered a downturn in his health last week when he suffered serious kidney problems after surgery.

The Sheba Medical Center said his condition has worsened over the "past hours".

"His condition is described as extremely critical and his family is at his side all the time," said a statement from the hospital near Tel Aviv.

Mr Sharon, one of Israel's most controversial and iconic figures, suffered the stroke at the height of his political power as he appeared to be cruising toward re-election.

His career has stretched across most of Israel's 65-year history.                

As one of Israel's most famous generals, he was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders.

As a politician, he became known as "the bulldozer" - contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.

He engineered Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and lost his job as defence minister after an Israeli-allied Christian militia killed hundreds of Palestinians at refugee camps in west Beirut, sparking international outrage.

Mr Sharon managed to slowly rehabilitate his political career. For years, he was a driving force in the movement to build settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.

First elected prime minister in 2001, he led a tough crackdown against a Palestinian uprising, a bout of violence in which more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis were killed. He remains reviled in much of the Arab world.

But in a dramatic about-face, Mr Sharon led Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, uprooting all soldiers and settlers from the seaside strip after a 38-year military occupation.

The Gaza withdrawal led Mr Sharon to break away from the hard-line Likud Party and form the centrist Kadima Party.

His new party was cruising toward victory in 2006 parliamentary elections when he suffered his stroke.