Middle East

Comatose Ariel Sharon 'could be home in days'

Ariel Sharon (2005)
Image caption Mr Sharon was born in Palestine in 1928, when it was under British administration

The family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is preparing to bring him home from hospital "within days", Israeli sources say.

The 82-year-old has been in a coma since 2006, when he suffered a massive stroke.

Sources told the BBC he could be moved to his farm in the Negev "as early as Friday" from his hospital in Tel Aviv.

Nicknamed "the bulldozer", the former general was seen as a strong leader by Israelis, but reviled by Palestinians.

'Trial basis'

Last month, medics at Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Aviv said the former leader remained in a vegetative state but that his condition was stable.

"He does have periods of sleep and in the daytime he opens his eyes. Sometimes the family believes there is recognition," his long-time personal physician and friend Dr Shlomo Segev told the BBC.

The hospital has confirmed that it is making arrangements to move Mr Sharon to his beloved farm - Sycamore Ranch - in southern Israel, where his late wife is buried.

"Initially, Mr Sharon will go for several holidays," it said in a statement earlier this week.

Short visits would be supervised by hospital staff, to make sure that private carers hired by the family were able to keep him in a stable condition, the statement said.

"These attempts... will pave the way for his full return home to his family and the environment he loved so much," it added.

Mr Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001, pledging to achieve "security and true peace".

He was a keen promoter of the expansion of the state and initiated the construction of the security barrier around the West Bank.

But despite fierce opposition in Israel, he ordered Jewish settlers to leave Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank.

As defence minister, Mr Sharon masterminded Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. During the invasion, Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in two refugee camps under Israeli control.

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