|File photo taken on Nov. 6, 2005 shows Sharon attending a press conference in Jerusalem. Israel's ex-PM Sharon dies at 85, Jan. 11, 2014. (Xinhua/Gao Xueyu)|
JERUSALEM, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died in hospital Saturday at the age of 85 after having been in a coma for eight years.
Sharon had been on life support in a Tel Aviv hospital since early 2006 when he suffered a severe stroke, and his condition started to deteriorate recently after suffering a kidney failure.
Sharon, one of the most controversial Israeli leaders, was born on Feb. 27, 1928, in Kfar Malal, the first Zionist agrarian community established in the then mandated Palestine.
In 1942, he enlisted in the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish armed force.
In 1948, Sharon participated in the War of Independence as a soldier. He rose through the ranks as he fought in the 1956 Suez Canal War, the 1967 Six-day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He served as defense minister during the controversial Lebanese War in 1982.
After retiring from the army, Sharon in 1973 helped Menahem Begin establish the Likud party, which grouped various right-wing parties.
In the same year, Sharon was elected for the first time into the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, beginning his long political career.
He was a member of the eighth to the 15th Knessets and took ministerial posts in the 18th to 24th Israeli cabinets. He was defense minister from August 1981 to February 1983, and foreign minister from October 1998 to July 1999.
In September 1999, Sharon was elected leader of the Likud party.
As chairman of the opposition party, Sharon visited the Temple Mount to demonstrate Israel's control over the area. Known as Haram al-Sharif to the Muslims, the place is the third holiest site in Islam. The act immediately sparked bloody clashes between Israel and the Palestinians.
In March 2001, Sharon defeated then Prime Minister and Labor party chairman Ehud Barak in a snap election. During his tenure, Sharon established a coalition government with the left-wing Labor to push forward his own political blueprint.
In September 2005, Israel completed a unilateral withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip to fulfill Sharon's disengagement plan, ending a 38-year military control of the territory.
On Nov. 21, 2005, Sharon quit the center-right Likud, which he co-founded over 30 years ago, and formed his own party, Kadima. He said he was fed up with fighting Likud hardliners who were still bitter about the disengagement plan.
However, on Dec. 18 of the same year, then 77-year-old Sharon was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem after suffering a mild stroke.
On Jan. 4, 2006, Sharon suffered a more severe stroke with massive bleeding in the brain. After receiving emergency treatment, he slipped into a vegetative state and was replaced by Ehud Olmert from his Kadima party.
On May 28, 2006, he was transferred from Hadassah Hospital to a long-term-care facility at Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.