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Former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon Dies

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died at a hospital near Tel Aviv. He was 85.

Sheba Medical Center Director Shlomo Noy says Mr. Sharon died in peace on Saturday with his family at his side.

At a briefing, Noy said the former Israeli leader had struggled with "surprising strength" and "determination" as his condition deteriorated over the past week.

Mr. Sharon had been in a coma since 2006, after suffering a massive stroke. The hospital director said Mr. Sharon never progressed beyond a state of minimal consciousness. A week ago, medical officials said his kidneys and other vital organs had begun to fail.

Mr. Sharon served as prime minister from 2001 until the stroke left him hospitalized at the height of his power.

He was replaced as prime minister by Ehud Olmert.

Mr. Sharon is perhaps best remembered as a tough leader who spared no action to defend Israelis. He oversaw Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Prior to becoming prime minister, he served under several Israeli leaders. He promoted the establishment of Jewish settlements throughout Palestinian territories.