Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies at age 85

By Daniel S Levine,

Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister, died Saturday. He was 85 and had been in a coma for the past eight years. Just last week, it was reported that his condition had worsened.

The news was first reported by Israeli Army Radio, notes CNN. He died at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

“My dear friend, Arik Sharon, lost his final battle today. I send my condolences to the Sharon family, may he rest in peace,” President Shimon Peres of Israel tweeted. “Arik was a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him. We all loved Arik and he will be greatly missed.”

Sharon was a major figure of Israeli politics for over half a century and was known as “Arik” by many, reports USA Today. He was involved in every war against Arab armies, beginning in 1948, as a military commander. Although he had been driven to ensure Israeli settlement of lands from Jordan and Egypt won during these wars, he did push Jewish settlers to leave Gaza in 2005 as prime minister. A year later, he suffered a stroke and had been in a coma since. He was in his fifth year as prime minister.

He was controversial as well, earning the nickname “the Butcher of Beirut” in the Arab world for Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. At the time, he was defense secretary.

“To us he represents violence, militarism, preemptive moves, undermining the political process -- and a long history of pain,” Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organization told USA Today.

According to The New York Times, Sharon’s final years were spent in an isolated part of the Tel Aviv hospital, as doctor’s limited visits. Last week, it was reported that he was in critical condition.

Sharon’s wife, Lily, died in 2000 from cancer. He is survived by two sons and three grandchildren.

image: Wikimedia Commons

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