Ariel Sharon: Former Israeli prime minister moved home

image captionDoctors say it is better for the former Israeli prime minister to be cared for at home than in hospital

Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, has been moved from a hospital to his home.

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

Doctors say the hope is that he will eventually be able to remain at his house with a full medical team to care for him.

The medics said the process of moving him permanently to his home - a farm in southern Israel - was a gradual one.

The former prime minister was taken in an ambulance at dawn on Friday from the Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv to the family's ranch.

"Today, in 2010, the aspiration of any patient, our aspiration in the hospital, is to ensure that any chronic patient, when possible, is with his community, at home," Dr Shlomo Noy, director of rehabilitation at the hospital, told Israel Radio.

"Clearly what's behind this move home is the hope that his situation will get better. But the improvements that we talk about in such situations are not great improvements, not dramatic improvements," he added.

Mr Sharon is expected to be returned to hospital for regular check-ups.

"It's a gradual process, when a hospital discharges a chronic patient to his home," Dr Noy said. "It's a structured process, whereby you check that the support and medical environment in which the patient is to be placed permanently is suitable."

'Political shadow'

On this first, carefully rehearsed, journey from the hospital the former leader was accompanied by the medical team, and all the necessary respiratory machinery to keep him alive.

image captionAriel Sharon has been in a coma since 2006, when he suffered a massive stroke

Security personnel erected screens at the hospital and the ranch so that he would not be visible when he was taken in and out of the ambulance.

BBC Jerusalem correspondent Wyre Davies says that even though he is in a permanent coma and is likely to never recover, Ariel Sharon still casts a shadow over Israeli politics.

Mr Sharon was admired by many Israelis as a great military leader, but reviled by Palestinians.

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

He was a keen promoter of the expansion of the building and expansion of settlements in the occupied territories. He also initiated the construction of the barrier along the border and inside the West Bank.

But late in his career, 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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