As it happened: Ariel Sharon dies

Key Points

  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died, aged 85
  • Sharon had been on life support and out of the public eye since suffering a massive stroke eight years ago
  • He was a giant of the Israeli military and political scene, but courted controversy throughout his long career
  • Sharon was being treated at the Sheba Medical Centre outside Tel Aviv
  • All times GMT

    Welcome to our live coverage of the death of Israel's former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mr Sharon died 85 after spending eight years in a coma following a stroke. He was being treated at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv.


    His condition worsened in the last few days as several of his organs, including his kidneys, malfunctioned.


    The hospital treating him has called a media conference for about 3pm local time (13:00 GMT).


    The 85-year-old, who became PM in 2001, has been in a persistent vegetative state since suffering a stroke in January 2006.


    Doctors said last week that his health was showing signs of "a slow and gradual deterioration" and his life was in danger.


    To many Israelis, Sharon was a heroic warrior, having led decisive campaigns in the 1967 and 1973 wars. But to many Palestinians he was The Butcher, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982. See our obituary of Ariel Sharon.


    Journalists are gathering at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, waiting for an expected formal announcement.


    The BBC's Kevin Connolly, in Jerusalem, says Ariel Sharon's life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved. He fought in Israel's war of independence in 1948, and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role, our correspondent says.


    The former US envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, tells the BBC that Ariel Sharon represented "the generation of those who fought in the first war, the war of independence, fought in the '56 war, in the '67 war, in the '73 war".


    Mr Ross also said Sharon was someone with a reputation for having done very controversial things on the one hand and yet once he became prime minister, he was someone prepared to be quite courageous in terms of taking steps that very few would have predicted.


    Ariel Sharon's son Gilad has told reporters his father "went when he decided to go''.


    Ariel Sharon was a central figure on Israel's political scene for many decades. See his life in pictures


    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sorrow at the death of Ariel Sharon, saying "he was a great warrior and military leader" and "his memory will live forever in the nation's heart".


    Shlomo Noy, the director of Sheba Medical Centre where Ariel Sharon was treated, tells a news conference that Sharon's "heart weakened and he peacefully departed from his family, who were always at his side with love and support.''


    Dr Shlomo Noy said that during the eight years Sharon had been treated, his condition was defined as "minimal consciousness'' and he had had "ups and downs".

    Anshell Pfeffer

    tweets: World leaders will eulogize #Sharon through gritted teath but none more than his most bitter rival @netanyahu

    Gilad Sharon announcing his father's death

    Gilad Sharon announced his father's death to the media

    Ofir Gendelman, Israel PM's spokesperson

    tweets: PM Netanyahu on the passing of former PM Ariel Sharon: "His memory will live forever in the nation's heart" 2/2


    An obituary in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz says Ariel Sharon's coma was part of the ups and downs that made his life an out-of-whack polygraph.


    Ariel Sharon in his own words


    Veteran Israeli diplomat Zalman Shoval told BBC World Service that Sharon had been a man of contrasts who would use "strong, even brutal force as a military leader" but "as a person, could be very human, perhaps because he knew how it was to be a commander of the army".

    "Basically, he understood that in the Middle East you have to be strong in order to make peace," Mr Shoval said, speaking by phone from Tel Aviv. "He was a man of peace, he wanted to establish peace with the Palestinians."


    A leading Palestinian political figure, Dr Mustafa Barghouti, told the BBC that Palestinians did not have positive memories of Mr Sharon. "Nobody should celebrate any death. But unfortunately I have to say that Mr Sharon left no good memories with Palestinians. Unfortunately he had a path of war and aggression and a great failure in making peace with the Palestinian people," he told the BBC's Newshour programme.

    Ariel Sharon, then an Israeli army colonel, visiting troops on 14 November 1964

    Here is a photo of Sharon as an army colonel, visiting troops in November 1964. See our life in pictures.


    Aged just 14, the young Sharon joined the Haganah, the underground Jewish military organisation which was the forerunner of the Israeli army. Here is our obituary looking at his long and controversial career.

    1347: BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen:

    He was never less than controversial among Israelis. There were Israelis on the left who saw him as a disaster. Other Israelis believed he was the only man who could be relied upon to maintain the country's security.

    I think it would be no exaggeration to say that every Palestinian would regard him as a butcher, a man with lakes of blood on his hands.


    Mitch Ginsburg says in an obituary in the mass-circulation Times of Israel that as "Israel's indomitable protector, Ariel Sharon emblemized military audacity, evolving politics".


    Israeli President Shimon Peres described Mr Sharon as one of Israel's "great protectors" who "knew no fear". Referring to Sharon by his nickname, he said: "Arik was a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him".

    Rabbi Chaim Ingram, Sydney, emails

    Unfortunately he will be remembered by many Israelis and Jews throughout the world for his ill-conceived and ill-fated decision to withdraw from Gaza, raze Jewish homes and synagogues to the ground and render thousands of salt-of-the-earth Israelis whom he himself had encouraged to settle Gaza homeless and jobless.


    British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Ariel Sharon is one of the most significant figures in Israeli history, and as Prime Minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated. Israel has today lost an important leader."

    1404: BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen:

    A lot of soldiers go into politics now in Israel. It is a well-trodden path to retire from the army at senior rank and go on to a political career. But it was the men who were around in 1948 who had that special resonance and took a lot of credibility into Israeli politics, both on the left and on the right.

    There is one from that generation still around, President Shimon Peres, now 90. Even though he was responsible for building up Israel's military and getting their nuclear bomb, he was not a man who ever wore a uniform so he was never seen as as trusted a figure by Israelis, partly because the perception was that he had not really served in the way that the other guys had.

    Simon Nyarko, from Ghana, emails

    Such a great man, may his soul rest in perfect peace

    Jimmy Kurkus, from Stockholm, emails

    My only sorrow is why he has never been prosecuted because of killing thousands of innocent human beings.

    Elad Sasson from Givatayim, Israel


    The new generation will remember Arik Sharon as the person responsible and credited for leaving the Gaza Strip - this is a two sided point of view. To the ex-residents of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip (Gush Katif), he will be remembered as the one that destroyed their lives - as still, since the disengagement from Gaza, these people are struggling to build a new life. On the other side - to those who have served in the military and others, leaving the Gaza Strip was a blessed action.

    Su Schachter from Gezer, Israel

    emails: I never agreed with Ariel Sharon's policies and practices, and indeed demonstrated against him and his actions for decades. However, he was one of the last of the straightforward Israeli politicians - his beliefs were clear and he acted on them. He was a man who did not compromise his principles, and he had plenty of principles. This is vastly different from the entire crop of today's politicians and office-holders. I shall remember him as an honest and worthy opponent.


    Arab Twitter users were celebrating Sharon's death within seconds of it being announced. Tweets in Arabic seen by the BBC recount what many see as Sharon's crimes from the 1967 Arab-Israeli war through the occupation of Lebanon in 1982, to his controversial visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque complex in 2000.

    "Sharon is a shedder of blood, all the curses of the skies and the Earth are on him, he killed children and women, and displaced families," read one tweet.

    "There are many like Sharon in the school of the Zionists," read another. "Like many before him he died, and the school of crimes survives."

    Many regretted Sharon had not stood trial. "I did not see him standing behind bars to be tried for the pain and harm he caused for the Palestinian people, but it is fate, yes fate," wrote one.

    Some wondered about the fate of those they call "Arab Sharons" - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Egyptian and Iraqi leaders.


    Palestinians at the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in south Lebanon rejoiced at news of Sharon's death, privately owned Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reports. "We wish he had fallen in battle," they reportedly cheered as they played revolutionary songs inside the camp.


    Former US President Bill Clinton says Ariel Sharon "gave his life to Israel".


    Yossi Verter in Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz calls Sharon "the last leader" and says that the "massive vacuum" Ariel Sharon left behind eight years ago has never really been filled.


    Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, welcomed the departure of a "tyrant". "Our people today feel extreme happiness at the death and departure of this criminal whose hands were smeared with the blood of our people and the blood of our leaders here and in exile," said spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi.

    Israelis visit the spot where Sharon is likely to be buried, outside his farm in Havat Hashikmim, southern Israel, 11 January

    These Israelis were visiting the spot where Sharon is likely to be buried, outside his farm in Havat Hashikmim, southern Israel.

    Miche Norman, from Hod Hasharon, Israel, emails

    I remember his words at Latrun- "Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no else ever has: the opportunity to establish a state of their own. No one— not the Turks, nor the English, nor the Egyptians, nor the Jordanians— has ever given them this chance before. And all Israel asks in return is an end to the violence to live in peace."


    A former minister in the Palestinian Authority, Ghassan Khatib, has told BBC World Service that Palestinians will never forgive Ariel Sharon for what he did. "We all only have negative and bad memories of Sharon," he said.

    "I think the consensus among Palestinians is that Sharon needed to be treated as a war criminal more than anything else. In all his political life he was a leading figure in the Israeli political camp that worked by all possible means, legal and illegal, in order to maintain the illegal control of Israel over the Palestinians."


    If you are just joining us, welcome to our live coverage of the death of Ariel Sharon, one of the most important figures in the history of Israel. Stay with us for reaction from around the world, with expert analysis from correspondents and voices from across the Middle East divide.


    Raanan Gissin, who was a close aide to Sharon, has this to say in an obituary published in the New York Times: "As a military man he knew one thing from the battlefield - you have to seize the initiative, you have to be the one driving the action. Even if peace was impossible, he wanted the process seeking it to be on his terms. And while he was in power, it was."


    John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, has paid tribute to Sharon: "I join the people of the Jewish state of Israel in mourning the loss of Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history.

    "Sharon's contribution to establishing and defending Israel's independence is incalculable and his devotion to peace undisputed. The people of America and Israel have forged a friendship based on a common love of freedom, a relationship strengthened by farsighted leaders like Ariel Sharon."


    Speaker Boehner ended his tribute with a biblical quotation: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."


    More now from that tribute paid to Sharon from Bill Clinton: "It was an honor to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country."


    Few tears are being shed for Sharon in Egypt, if the blog posts seen by BBC Monitoring are anything to go by.

    "Sharon died years ago, today he is being taken to the courtroom," wrote well-known Egyptian actor and activist Nabil al-Halafawi on Twitter.

    Khayri Ramadan, a prominent presenter on one of the most watched private channels in Egypt, CBC TV, tweeted: "The murderer Ariel Sharon. Sharon died and is thrown in the history's dustbin because of his brutality, maltreatment of our brothers in Palestine and Lebanon."


    Israeli President Shimon Peres is due to deliver a statement on Sharon's death shortly.


    Israel's relations with Russia have never been easy, going back to the Cold War when Moscow supplied weapons to the Arab states. However President Vladimir Putin has sent his condolences on the death of Sharon, described by the Kremlin as "an outstanding statesman and military commander".


    Statement by US President Barack Obama: "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.

    "We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. 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's body is loaded into an ambulance at the Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv, 11 January

    This photo shows Sharon's body being placed in an ambulance at Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv.


    John Kerry has paid tribute to Sharon in a statement which feels more personal than other US politicians - perhaps because the US secretary of state is a former combat soldier himself.

    "Ariel Sharon's journey was Israel's journey," he said.

    "The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream. I remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marvelling at his commitment to cause and country. I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became Prime Minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own long-time supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process. He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.

    "During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions - and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood - you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State. In his final years as prime minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik's legacy and those of Israel's founding generation by working to achieve that goal."

    Gilad Sharon visits his mother's grave in Havat Hashikmim, southern Israel, 11 January

    Gilad Sharon is seen here visiting his mother's grave in Havat Hashikmim, southern Israel, today. This is where his father is expected to be buried too.


    David Horovitz, founding editor of online newspaper The Times of Israel, believes Sharon was as "quintessential an Israeli figure as you could imagine".

    "There is no Israeli who does not have an opinion about Sharon and what is surprising is that late in his life, many of the demographic sections of this country that might have disliked him and been hostile towards him were ultimately won over," he told BBC World Service.


    "Ariel Sharon died hated by Israel's enemies but there are plenty of Israelis who would argue that the depth of that hatred was a measure of the success with which he always defended the country he served": analysis by BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly.

    CNN's Kevin Flower

    tweets: My email box is flooded with statements from those who loved and hated Ariel Sharon....a divisive figure until the end


    In the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis, correspondents saw some people burning pictures of Sharon or stamping on them, while others distributed sweets to motorists and passers-by.


    "Everything we don't grab will go to them" - Sharon speaking as foreign minister about Israeli and Palestinian land claims in November 1998. Read more of his quotes.

    Image on Iran's Fars news agency

    This image appeared on Iran's Fars news agency with the caption "The story of the butcher of Sabra and Shatila is over".


    Ronald Lauder, president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, has attested to Sharon's "unique" love for Israel. "Many Israelis may fault one or another of Sharon's political or military decisions," he said, "but probably no single individual fought harder to safeguard Israel."

    Sharon's tank manoeuvres would, he said, be "studied as long as there are military colleges".

    Mr Lauder also commended Sharon's efforts to "house and absorb the nearly one million Russian-speaking Jews who arrived in Israel in the 1990s".


    Shimon Peres is speaking about Sharon now. "He built our country," he says.

    Isobel, Eilat, Israel

    emails: A great general, to be sure. But the results of his decision to uproot 10,000 Israelis from Gaza proved conclusively that "land for peace" is a myth for Israel. Kerry and Bibi would do well to take the lesson from that.


    "He was an outstanding man and an exceptional commander," President Peres continues. "He knew no fear. He took difficult decisions and implemented them courageously."


    As Mr Peres remembered his former great rival in Israeli politics, tears could be seen rolling down his cheeks.


    "Arik was a great family man and considered Israel as his extended family," Mr Peres said. "From the early years and throughout, we kept our friendship and in the most moving way. I shall miss him dearly, and I will remember him lovingly."


    US Vice-President Joe Biden will lead the US delegation to Sharon's memorial service, he says in a statement.


    Tawfik Tirawi served as Palestinian intelligence chief when Sharon was prime minister. His reaction to his death: "He wanted to erase the Palestinian people from the map... He wanted to kill us but, at the end of the day, Sharon is dead and the Palestinian people are alive."

    Palestinians burn a poster of Ariel Sharon in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, 11 January

    Here is a photo of those celebrations in the Khan Younis refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip.


    BBC Monitoring has been watching Iranian media for their coverage of Sharon's death. For the state TV of one of Israel's greatest enemies, he was a "criminal Zionist racist" and "mastermind of the brutal massacre of more 3,300 oppressed Palestinians and refugees". According to a presenter on the channel, Sharon "got involved in the genocide and occupation of Palestinian lands by enrolling in a Zionist group in his youth".


    It is expected Sharon's remains will lie in state at the Knesset, or Israeli parliament. Israeli press reports say there will be a state memorial service at the Knesset on Monday, after which Sharon will be buried at his private farm in the southern Negev desert.


    Sharon's nurse, Marina Lifschitz, has said he did not suffer while lying comatose, though at times he gave basic responses to stimuli, Reuters news agency reports. At one point, she held up a picture of his late wife Lily for him to view. "And suddenly I saw a tear simply rolling out of his eye," she recalled. "That is very difficult to forget."

    Ariel Sharon with his wife Lily at an air display in Israel in 1982

    Sharon is seen here with his wife Lily at an air display in Israel in 1982.

    Alexander Marquardt, ABC News Middle East Correspondent

    tweets: Reps of #Israel military, police and prime minister's office to meet tonight at 9pm to discuss arrangements for Sharon's funeral.


    So the exact arrangements for Sharon's funeral are to be decided tonight by Israeli officials. But according to Israeli daily Haaretz, he will be accorded a military funeral on Monday afternoon local time, with US Vice-President Joe Biden in attendance.


    Palestinians who survived the 1982 Sabra and Shatila camp massacre in Beirut show no sympathy or compassion over Sharon's death, Reuters news agency reports.

    "I personally, as a witness and what I suffered from that person, I say to Hell and hellfire Sharon and similar to Sharon," said one of them, Youssef Hamzeh.

    "We have been suffering for the past 32 years, he suffered for only eight years," said another, named as Milany Botros Alha Borje. "I wish he could for 10 more years so that I would be happy. There is nothing we can do. That's God's will."

    Susan, Israel

    emails: As a citizen of Israel the death of Ariel Sharon has left bitter memories of disgrace. In my personal opinion his military and political career should have ended permanently in discredit after the inquiry of Sabra and Shatila. Innocent citizens on both sides of the border have lost their lives because of his "bulldozer" tactics.

    BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet

    tweets: A moment in history in a region that lives its history. In death, as in life, Ariel Sharon provokes impassioned comment, from all sides


    Read our obituary of the "Bulldozer, a larger-than-life, blustering figure who came to dominate the domestic political scene as much by his sheer physical presence as by his rhetoric".

    Israeli President Shimon Peres leaves the podium after speaking about Ariel Sharon, 11 January

    A tearful Shimon Peres is seen here after paying tribute to his old rival and friend.


    And that brings us to the close of our live coverage of reaction to the death of Ariel Sharon. The Israeli military and political leader died at the age of 85 after eight years in a coma following a stroke. Israeli officials are meeting this evening to discuss arrangements for his funeral. For further coverage, follow our news story.


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