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December 17, 2014

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Israeli ex-PM Sharon’s condition worsens

JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's already critical medical condition is deteriorating further as key bodily organs continue to decline, the hospital treating him said Friday.

The 85-year-old Sharon, who has been in a coma for eight years after a devastating stroke incapacitated him at the peak of his political power, is fighting and is not in pain, said Dr. Zeev Rotstein, the director of Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv.

Sharon was one of Israel's most iconic and controversial figures and his career stretched across Israel's 65-year history.

Speaking to reporters Friday at the hospital, Rotstein said Sharon's life remains in danger and that "there is a slow and gradual deterioration" in his condition along with "multi-organ failure."

Test results show Sharon also has a blood infection, Rotstein said.

The director refused to provide a prognosis but when asked if Sharon will recover, "looking at the trend of deterioration, it doesn't give us good signs for the future."

Sharon's family was by his bedside, Rotstein said.

Referring to Sharon by his nickname "Arik," Rotstein said Sharon "is fighting like a real fighter, as he did all his life."

As one of Israel's most famous generals, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders.

Sharon is credited with helping turn the tide of the 1973 Mideast war when Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on the solemn fasting day of Yom Kippur, causing large Israeli casualties. He led an Israeli force across the Suez Canal, trapping part of the Egyptian army and turning the war in Israel's favor.

As a politician, he became known as "the bulldozer" — a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done. He was elected prime minister in 2001.

In mid-2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending a 38-year military control of the territory. It was a shocking turnaround for a man who had been a leading player in building Jewish settlements in captured territories.

He later bolted from his hard-line Likud Party and established the centrist Kadima Party. It seemed he was on his way to an easy re-election when he suffered the stroke in January 2006.

After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Sharon was transferred to the long-term care facility at Tel Hashomer hospital. He was taken home briefly at one point but was returned several days later to the hospital, where he has been since.

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