Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Dies At 85

By Eric Dutkiewicz - 21Alive

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon

January 11, 2014 Updated Jan 11, 2014 at 7:41 PM EDT

TEL AVIV (21Alive) - Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday after years of being in a coma.

Sharon, 85, died in a hospital in Tel Aviv.

Sharon suffered a stroke during a 2006 re-election campaign, and was comatose til his death. His health had deteriorated in the past few days, doctors say.

Sharon was elected Israel's 11th prime minister in 2000, and was known for hard-line policies and swift military use. He rose to popularity during the October War of 1973, when, as an Israeli general, he defied the Southern Command, marching across the Suez Canal and ultimately defeating Egypt.

The move could have brought court martial, but the Israeli government would ultimately call Sharon a national hero; and that would begin his assent to prime minister.

Prior to being elected prime minister, Sharon served as Defense Minister, waging war against the Palestinian Liberation Organization throughout the Middle East.

The Israeli government would would also be held responsible for the 1982 Sabra & Shatila Massacre, in which Israeli troops killed hundreds of Palestinians attempting to flee refugee camps in Lebanon attacked by Phalange paramilitary forces.

Sharon was removed from office with the thoughts he would never seek another office.

As prime minister, Sharon also dramatically changed Israeli policy on the West Bank and Gaza. He ordered the withdrawal of thousands of Israeli troops and settlers, saying it was too difficult to protect embattled settlements. Hamas would ultimately seize control of the land until another war with Israel in 2008 gave the area back to the Israelis.

The man known as the "Bulldozer" pushed for renewed peace with between the Israelis and Palestinians, but his plans to run an Israel with a new approach would abruptly end with his stroke.

Governor Mike Pence issued the following statement on Sharon’s passing:

"Today, we mark the passing of Ariel Sharon, a soldier and a leader who served the nation of Israel in times of war and peace. Prime Minister Sharon dedicated his life to the security and well-being of our most cherished ally and he will forever be remembered with respect by her people and her friends. Our prayers are with his loved ones and all those who mourn the passing of this warrior and leader of Israel.”

Gov. Pence and First Lady Karen Pence met privately with former Prime Minister Sharon during a congressional delegation trip to Israel in 2004.

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