“Ariel Sharon, Israel’s eleventh prime minister, passed away on Saturday afternoon at the age of 85. He had been in terminal condition since a “dramatic deterioration” late Thursday afternoon, hospital officials said,” the Times of Israel reports.
“That’s it. He’s gone. He went when he decided to go,” Sharon’s son Gilad announced at Sheba Medical Center, at Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv.
“Ariel Sharon has passed away,” said Professor Shlomo Noy, spokesman for the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv. ”He was considered to be in a state of minimal consciousness, with ups and downs in his medical condition, and minimal non-verbal communication.”
“On Saturday afternoon, Noy said, Sharon’s heart stopped,” the Times noted.
Sharon was one of Israel’s most iconic and controversial figures. 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,” a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.
As defense minister, he led Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and was forced to resign the post after a commission of inquiry found him responsible for failing to prevent the massacre by Christian Phalangists of Palestinian refugees in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila camps.
A prominent hard-line voice over the decades, he was elected prime minister in 2001.
In mid-2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending a 38-year 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 bolted the Likud party soon after and established the centrist Kadima party, where he was joined by Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. He appeared on his way to an easy reelection when he suffered a severe stroke in January 2006. His deputy, Olmert, took over and was elected prime minister a few months later.
Sharon had a first, small stroke in December 2005 and was put on blood thinners before experiencing a severe brain hemorrhage 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. He was taken home briefly at one point, but was returned to the hospital, where he had been since.