Condition of comatose former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon deteriorates

Former hardliner, who has been in a coma since 2006, suffers further decline in health, hospital reveals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 11:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 4:47pm

The medical condition of Ariel Sharon, the comatose former Israeli prime minister, has sharply deteriorated, the hospital treating him said.

Sharon, 85, has been in a coma since 2006, when a devastating stroke incapacitated him at the height of his political power. His family has said that he sometimes opens his eyes and moves his fingers.

Amir Marom, a spokesman for Tel Hashomer hospital, where Sharon has been treated for most of the past eight years, said on Wednesday that Sharon's medical condition had "deteriorated in the past few days".

He refused to elaborate. Sharon's son, Omri, refused to comment.

Israeli media reported that Sharon was suffering from kidney problems and that his family was at the hospital. In September, Sharon underwent surgery to insert a new feeding tube.

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

As a politician he became known as "the bulldozer", a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done. A prominent hardline voice over the decades, he was elected prime minister in 2001.

But in mid-2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending 38 years of military control of the territory.

It was a shocking turnaround for a man who had been a leading player in building Jewish settlements in captured territories.

He later left his hardline Likud Party and established the centrist Kadima Party. He appeared on his way to an easy re-election when he suffered the stroke in January 2006. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, took over and was elected prime minister a few months later.

Sharon had a small stroke in December 2005 and was put on blood thinners before experiencing a severe brain haemorrhage on January 4, 2006. After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Sharon was transferred to the long-term care facility at Tel Hashomer hospital.