World News

Israel's Ariel Sharon, in Coma Since 2006, Dead at 85

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has died, following complications from a massive stroke. He was 85.

Shlomo Noy, a director at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, said Mr. Sharon died "in peace" on Saturday with his family at his side.

Noy said Mr. Sharon had never regained full consciousness after going into a coma in 2006. He also said the former Israeli leader showed remarkable strength after his vital organs began to fail, a week ago.

"Over the past week [Mr. Sharon] struggled with surprising strength and determination against the deterioration in his condition."

Israel's current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said there is "deep sorrow" in the Jewish state over Mr. Sharon's death. Mr. Netanyahu says the former leader will live forever in the nation's heart.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders sent condolence messages to Israel and Mr. Sharon's family. Palestinians who had seen the former minister as a bitter enemy rejoiced at the news of his death.

On Sunday, the public will be able to pay its respects to Mr. Sharon at the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem. On Monday, an official state ceremony will be held at the Knesset followed by a private burial at Mr. Sharon's ranch in the southern Negev region.

Mr. Sharon was one of Israel's most influential and controversial figures, as both a military commander and a political leader.

As a military leader, he drew international condemnation for a 1953 reprisal raid on the Jordanian town of Qibya. The attack left 69 people dead, most of them women and children. Israel launched the raid after a woman and her two children were murdered in the town of Yehud.

As defense minister in 1982, he led an invasion of Lebanon, following a series of attacks by Palestinian gunmen based in the country. During the invasion, members of a Lebanese Christian militia allied with Israel killed hundreds of people at Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. A government probe of the incident led to Mr. Sharon's resignation.

As a politician, Mr. Sharon championed territory-expanding Zionism for most of his life. In 2005, however, he stunned the world and some allies when he decided to withdraw all Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip.

He then left his Likud Party and formed a centrist Kadima movement, which promoted further territorial withdrawal to create a separate Palestinian state.

World negotiators, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are currently trying to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree to a framework peace deal that leads to a two-state solution.

Natan Sachs is a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. In a VOA interview, he said Mr. Sharon has "many legacies" - as a military general and as Israel's leader.

"A very beloved prime minister, one that many Israelis turned to as a certain father figure. A very seasoned politician, in contrast to much younger politicians who seem to have failed, such as [Benjamin] Netanyahu, such as Ehud Barak. Sharon seemed to be the very steady hand in the very traumatic days of the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the early 2000s."

Omri Ceren is a senior adviser at The Israel Project, a pro-Israel nonprofit group in Washington. He told VOA Mr. Sharon is a figure of "overarching importance" in Israel's history for his role in reshaping the country's civil and military sectors.

"Sharon was both a military hero - at times, arguably one of the country's greatest military heroes in the aftermath of particular wars - but also a political giant," Ceren said. "He, in the military context, was thought to have been critical to winning - to literally, quite literally, winning - entire theaters during wars like the Yom Kippur War, the 1973 war. And politically, he quite literally redrew Israel's electoral map."

Mr. Sharon served as prime minister from 2001 until his 2006 stroke left him in a coma.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs