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Former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon Dies After Long Coma

January 11th 2014

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died from complications associated with a massive stroke that he suffered eight years ago. He was 85.

Israeli news reports say Sharon died Saturday at a hospital near Tel Aviv. A week ago, medical officials said his kidneys and other vital organs had begun to fail.

As a soldier, he was known for his daring heroics on the battlefield in the decades following the creation of the State of Israel, most notably during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In a brilliant tactical display, he led Israeli troops across the Suez Canal, cutting off Egypt's third army.

In 1982, he led an invasion of Lebanon that resulted in the massacre by Lebanese militias of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut.

Dennis Ross, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator, says the military shaped Mr. Sharon.

"He certainly came to believe that the only way peace would be possible would be for Israeli strength to be respected." he said.

As a politician, Ariel Sharon was also controversial.  As a cabinet member, he promoted the establishment of Jewish settlements throughout the Palestinian territories. 

Palestinian scholar Shukri Abed says this won him further hatred among Arabs. 

"To say the least not trusted, and probably hated by many of them, because of his strong positions, because he was an advocate of  building settlements. He was the father of building settlements."

As head of the opposition in 2000, Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem sparked anger among the Palestinians and triggered the uprising known as the Second Intifada. 

He became prime minister in 2001.

* Born in 1928 in farming community north of Tel Aviv
* Joined underground Jewish military organization Haganah in 1942
* Fought as platoon commander in Arab-Israeli war of 1948-49
* Led Commando Unit 101 that carries out reprisal raids in 1953
* Led paratroopers in the 1956 Suez War
* Elected member of parliament in 1973
* Served as security advisor to then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin
* Appointed defense minister in 1981
* Led Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, resigns after being found responsible for failing to prevent massacres in    Palestinian refugee camps
* Appointed minister of housing and construction in 1990
* Appointed foreign minister in 1997
* Elected prime minister in 2001, one year after controversial visit to the Temple Mount
* Directed the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005
* Established the Kadima party in 2005, new elections set for March 2006
* Following a stroke on Jan. 4, 2006, he remained in a coma and hospitalized until his death.

Luis Ramirez writes for VOA News, from where this article is adapted.

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