Israel’s ex-PM Ariel Sharon dies. The BBC:
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died aged 85 after spending eight years in a coma following a stroke.
He was a giant of Israel’s military and political scene, but courted controversy throughout his long career.
The head of the Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv said Mr Sharon had died on Saturday afternoon of heart failure.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he was a great warrior but a senior Palestinian said his path was war and aggression.
Ariel Sharon’s life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved from the moment of its birth.
He fought in its war of independence in 1948 and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role…
“His memory will live forever in the nation’s heart”, the Israeli leader’s spokesman said on Twitter…
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly, in Jerusalem, says Ariel Sharon’s life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved.
He fought in Israel’s war of independence in 1948, and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role, our correspondent says.
The 85-year-old became PM in 2001 and in 2005 completed a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, months before he suffered a massive stroke.
His health had declined for the past week and a half, Sheba Medical Centre Director Professor Shlomo Noy told reporters.
Over the past week he struggled with surprising strength and determination against the deterioration in his condition. Today he departed peacefully with his loving family at his side.”
One of his two sons, Gilad Sharon, said outside the hospital: “He has gone. He went when he decided to go.”
He had been in a persistent vegetative state since a stroke in 2006 and Professor Noy said he had suffered “ups and downs” throughout that period.
Ariel Sharon died during the Jewish Sabbath and the BBC’s Yolande Knell said a ministerial committee would meet in the coming hours to decide what steps to take in the coming hours.
It is believed Mr Sharon’s body may lie in state at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, before a big state funeral is held. He will finally be buried at his ranch in the Negev desert, our correspondent says…