Five years on, Sharon remains in coma

2011-01-04 16:20

Jerusalem - With little fanfare, Israel on Tuesday marked five years since former prime minister and tough army general Ariel Sharon fell into a coma, ending a controversial political and military career.

The long-time leader of the right-wing nationalist camp in Israeli politics suffered a massive stroke on January 4 2006, slipping into a coma from which he has never recovered.

His family have kept him alive on life support, although the former strongman has shown no sign of improvement or indication that he is likely to recover.

No official events marked the anniversary, while Sharon remains hospitalised in the Haim Sheba medical centre at the Tel Hachomer hospital in Tel Aviv.

His family in mid-November transferred him briefly to the family ranch, Sycamore Farm, to test whether his condition could be kept stable outside of a hospital environment.

Sharon, now 82, returned less than two days later to hospital, but his family has said they hope to bring him back permanently to the ranch in southern Israel.

The former premier collapsed five months after he embarked on a radical new path that saw him pull out all Jewish settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation.

It was an unexpected move for man better known for his military background and hardline support of settlers.

As defence minister, he masterminded Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the siege of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation headquarters in west Beirut.

The following year, he was forced out in disgrace after being held "indirectly responsible" for the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila perpetrated by his Lebanese Christian Phalangist allies.

The affair led detractors to brand him the "Butcher of Beirut".

Despite a commission's recommendation that Sharon was unfit for public office, he slowly rebuilt his reputation before becoming leader in 2000 of the Likud bloc and rising to the pinnacle of government.

Born in British-mandate Palestine on February 27, 1928 to parents from Belarus, many in Israel regarded the general known by the nickname of "Arik" as a war hero.

Read more on:    ariel sharon  |  israel
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