Ariel Sharon, Former Israeli Prime Minister, Dead At 85

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday, eight years after a stroke that left him in a coma from which he never awoke. He was 85.

Sharon’s son announced his father’s death Saturday afternoon.

“He has gone,” Gilad Sharon said. “He went when he decided to go.”

Doctors said last week that it would be a miracle if Sharon survived the weekend, but he survived for almost a week and a half before finally succumbing after almost a decade in a coma. He had been given blood thinners after his 2006 stroke, but suffered a massive bleed in his brain a few weeks later and was left in a vegetative state.

In the past week, Sharon’s health took a turn for the worst as a number of organs, including his kidneys, stopped functioning. On Thursday, doctors pronounced his condition “grave.”

President Barack Obama extended his condolences to Ariel Sharon’s family and the people of Israel after news of his passing broke.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel,” the president said in a statement.

“We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples,” he continued. “We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country.”

Ariel Sharon was first elected Prime Minister in 2001 and served until 2006 when he became comatose. He was a commander in the Israeli Army from its creation in 1948, and was instrumental in the creation of Unit 101, a special forces unit of the Israeli Defense Forces. As Minister of Defense, he directed the 1982 Lebanon War, which lasted until June 1985. He was held indirectly responsible by an Israeli inquiry in 1983 for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps, and was forced to resign.