Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is dead. He died Saturday, January 11, after eight years in a coma. Sharon was 85. The former general suffered a stroke in January 2006 and has been hospitalized since.
Sharon died at Sheba Medical Center in the Tel Aviv suburb of Tel Hashomer.
He was in his fifth year as prime minister when he suffered a massive stroke in January 2006, which left him comatose.
Ehud Olmert, who became interim prime minister after Sharon’s stroke, assumed the role of prime minister after leading the Kadima Party to an election victory in March 2006.
Sharon’s career was closely tied to Israel’s relationship with Lebanon.
During the Lebanon war in 1982, Sharon, a former army general then serving as Israeli defense minister, was held indirectly responsible by an Israeli inquiry in 1983 for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. He was forced to resign.
Sharon formed the centrist Kadima in an effort to build political support for his controversial plan to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.
As waves of suicide bombings by militants rocked Israel, Sharon sent tanks and troops into Palestinian towns, ordering assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders.
Sharon ordered construction of the barrier through the West Bank and confined then-Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, whom he called “a terrorist,” to his compound in Ramallah, accusing him of encouraging attacks on Israel.
This veteran of all of Israel’s wars was a national hero to many.
In 1953, after a wave of terrorist attacks from Jordan, Sharon the military leader led the infamous Unit 101 on a raid into the border town of Kibya, blowing up 45 houses and killing 69 Arab villagers. Sharon said he thought the houses were empty.
In June 1967, as a general, Sharon led his tank battalion to a crushing victory over the Egyptians in the Sinai during the Six Day War.
But what he considered his greatest military success came in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. He surrounded Egypt’s Third Army and, defying orders, led 200 tanks and 5,000 men over the Suez Canal, a turning point in the war.
As defense minister, Sharon was the architect of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, an occupation meant to stop the Palestine Liberation Organization from using Lebanon as a base for attacks on Israel. The attack was disastrous.
Sharon was born on a farm outside Tel Aviv. The son of Russian immigrants, he always remembered a lesson from his father as he ascended to the highest office in Israel.