Ariel Sharon 1928-2014

Jeremy Bowen looks back at Ariel Sharon’s political and military career

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.

President Shimon Peres said he had built Israel but a senior Palestinian said his path was war and aggression.

Mr Peres, who joined a unity government with Mr Sharon in 2001, said he was “an exceptional man and an exceptional commander who moved his people and loved them and the people loved him”.

Palestinian political figure Mustafa Barghouti said while no-one should gloat at his death, Mr Sharon had taken “a path of war and aggression” and had left “no good memories with Palestinians”.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke of a leader “who dedicated his life to the State of Israel“.

The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen said he had shaped the current state of the West Bank and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians more than any other Israeli politician in recent years.

Ariel Sharon 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.

He became PM in 2001 and in 2005 completed a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, months before suffering a massive stroke.

Courtesy BBC World News

 

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