JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Ariel Sharon, the
trailblazing former Israeli general and prime minister who was in a coma
for eight years after he had a stroke at the height of his power, died
on Saturday aged 85, his family and the government said.
Sharon's son Gilad announced the death at the hospital where his
father had been treated. Doctors there had predicted his imminent
death after his health declined sharply last week.
Ministers in Israel's right-wing government, and the political
opposition, mourned a tough and wily leader who left big footprints
on the region through military invasion, Jewish settlement building
on captured land and a shock, unilateral decision to pull Israeli
troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
"The nation of Israel has today lost a dear man, a great leader and
a bold warrior," Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a
There was no immediate comment on the death from Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Sharon's Likud party successor,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been holding U.S.-sponsored
But in Gaza, the Hamas Islamists whose political fortunes rose with
the Israeli withdrawal savored Sharon's demise.
"We have become more confident in victory with the departure of this
tyrant," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi, whose movement
preaches the destruction of the Jewish state.