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)
BEIJING, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,a controversial figure that altered the course of the Middle East, died at a hospital near Tel Aviv in central Israel at the age of 85.
Sharon had been in a coma for eight years ever since he suffered a stroke in January 2006, but his health conditions deteriorated last week, which resulted in a multi-system organ failure.
Reactions started pouring in from across the political spectrum in Israel, as well as from the rest of the world.
At home, Sharon was eulogized by various politicians, topped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
"Sharon knew no fear, made hard decisions and implemented them with courage, both in times of war and in times of peace," Peres said at a videotaped statement Saturday evening.
"He will always be remembered as a unique leader in our nation's history, as an esteemed personality throughout the world," he added.
"The state of Israel bows its head in sorrow for the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Sharon's family members and friends gathered near his ranch in the Negev Desert to pay tribute to him. He will be laid to rest there on Monday, unlike all other Israeli leaders, who are buried at Mount Hertzel in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israeli's decades-long foes, have reacted to Sharon's death with apathy, while hardliners hailed his departure.
Hanan Ashrawi, an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) told Xinhua that the Palestinians don't celebrate the death of any human being, "but we don't feel sorry for his death."
"Sharon's history is linked to the Palestinian people's suffering for more than three decades," she charged.
"The only thing the Palestinian people remember about Sharon is that he was so violent and aggressive against them," said Wassel Abu Yousef, another PLO official.
In the Gaza Strip, Islamic Hamas movement on Saturday said Sharon was "a distinguished war criminal."
"The Palestinian people remember Sharon as someone who caused destruction, ordeals and displacement to them," Salah al-Bardaweel, a Hamas official, told Xinhua.
In the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, dozens of hardliners burnt posters of Sharon and celebrated his death, contending that it is he who led to the massive killing of Palestinians and their historic suffering.
In 1983, after a massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Sharon was held responsible and resigned from his post as Israel's defense minister.
In late September 2000, Sharon went on a controversial visit to al-Aqsa Mosque, which provoked the Palestinians and touched off the second Intifada, or Uprising, against Israel.
Sharon's body will be placed in front of the Israeli Knesset building at 12:00 on Sunday, to let Israeli citizens come and pay their tributes.
A state funeral will be held Monday at noon. His body will be buried next to his wife Lily Sharon, who died of cancer 14 years ago.
Among the international leaders who confirmed to attend the funeral are U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Levrov and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeir.
World leaders mourn the passing away of this iconic statesman and retired general, one of the most influential and controversial figures in Israeli politics.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday he was "saddened" by Sharon's death, and called on the country to build on his legacy of pragmatism to press ahead with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
On the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama sent his condolences to Sharon's bereaved family and to the Israeli people over his death.
"As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country," Obama said in a statement, calling Sharon a leader "who dedicated his life to the State of Israel."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also conveyed her condolences to Netanyahu on the passing of the country's former leader, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said Saturday.
The chancellor "is mourning with the Israeli people" for Sharon, who was also committed to deepening the German-Israeli relations, Seibert said.
Sharon was a decorated military commander who led Israel throughout its major wars and was criticized for his adventurous military operations. He became a politician who later in life reached out for peace with the Palestinians.
He changed his tunes in the early 2000's. He left the right wing Likud party, started the center-left Kadima party (with Shimon Peres by his side) and orchestrated Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
JERUSALEM, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- The health condition of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is continuing to deteriorate and only "a miracle" would stop the decline, the hospital where he is being treated said on Monday.Full Story
JERUSALEM, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The condition of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for eight years and is critically ill lately, has further worsened, a hospital spokesperson confirmed to Xinhua Thursday.Full Story
JERUSALEM, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health condition has deteriorated with blood infection affecting his vital organs, said the hospital where he is hospitalized on Friday.
"Test results indicate a slow and gradual deterioration in Mr. Sharon's condition," head of Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Ze'ev Rotstein, said at a press conference. Full story