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Comatose Former Israeli PM Sharon Returns Home

Ariel Sharon (file: Dec. 1, 2005)

Israel's comatose former prime minister Ariel Sharon was moved from a Tel Aviv hospital to his home, nearly five years after suffering a massive stroke that removed him from office. With screens blocking the view, medical teams wheeled Mr. Sharon into a waiting ambulance, and a convoy of family and security guards escorted him to his ranch in southern Israel.

Dr. Shlomo Noi heads the hospital unit that took care of Mr. Sharon.

He told Israel Radio that in modern medical thinking it is preferable to treat long-term patients at home, where there is a sense of community, rather than in the hospital.

Mr. Sharon is 82. He remains on a respirator and there has been no change in his condition.

Dr. Noi said the former leader is showing "minimal responses," and there is no indication he will emerge from the coma. "Beyond that, we can only hope," he said.

Mr. Sharon was a war hero and a controversial right-wing politician known for his tough approach to the Arabs. But his legacy is largely defined by an about-face: Israel's unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Many Israelis see the pullout as a failure because since then, thousands of Palestinian rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. But others say Mr. Sharon broke the taboo of dismantling Jewish settlements, and that could clear the way for a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.