4 years after stroke, Sharon still in coma
JERUSALEM - Ariel Sharon, the tough army general turned prime minister who shocked his hawkish supporters by pulling Israel out of Gaza in 2005, is still lying unconscious in a hospital bed, friends said yesterday on the fourth anniversary of the massive stroke that put him in a coma.
Sharon, 81, led Israel from 2001 until the January 2006 stroke that left him comatose.
Dov Weisglass, a close friend of Sharon and his former spokesman, said Sharon’s vital signs are good but it was not clear if he would ever regain consciousness.
Sharon was a daring army officer who reached the rank of major general in the 1970s, sometimes disobeying orders from his superiors. After leaving the army, Sharon turned to politics, becoming a hawkish lawmaker in the Likud party and an enthusiastic supporter of the movement to settle the West Bank with Israelis.
He served in several Cabinet posts, including defense minister. He was the architect of Israel’s disastrous war in Lebanon, which began in 1982. The next year he was forced to resign by an Israeli commission of inquiry that found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of around 800 Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Christian militiamen.
Resurrecting his political career, he was elected Israel’s prime minister in 2001. In 2005, Sharon unilaterally withdrew all Israeli settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, ending Israel’s 38-year occupation of the territory. Outraged hawks abandoned him, and Sharon created a new centrist party, Kadima, to run in March 2006 elections. He appeared to be on his way to reelection when he suffered a stroke on Jan. 4, 2006.
Doctors fought to keep him alive after severe hemorrhaging that caused significant brain damage, performing a number of desperate operations to stop the bleeding.