Ariel Sharon, 1928-2006

Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel from 2001-2006, died on XXXXXX from complications of a massive stroke he suffered in early January.

Sharon was born on February 27, 1928, in the farming village of Kfar Malal in what was then British-ruled Mandatory Palestine. Sharon was widowed twice. His first wife, Margalit, with whom he had a son, Gur, died in a car crash in 1962. Gur died in October 1967 in a tragic shooting accident, when a close friend accidentally fired a gun they were examining. After Margalit's death, Sharon married her younger sister, Lily. They had two sons, Omri and Gilad. Lily Sharon died in 2000.

Sharon's prolific military career started at age 14, when he joined the Gadna youth battalion, then later Hagana, the pre-state militia which would later serve as the nucleus to the Israel Defense Forces. During the 1948 War of Independence, Sharon first headed an infantry unit, then commanded a platoon in the Alexandroni Brigade. He suffered a life-threatening wound while fighting the Jordanian Arab Legion in the Second Battle of Latrun, and was saved when one of his men carried him off the battlefield.

After his recovery, Sharon rose quickly through army ranks. In 1952, he was called from his studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem to found and command Unit 101, Israel's first special forces unit.

In the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Sharon was responsible for the IDF's capture of ground east of the Sinai's Mitla Pass. The operation's high death toll drew much criticism in Israel.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, Sharon commanded Armored Reserve Division 138 on the Sinai front. Sharon became the head of the IDF's Southern Command in 1969, and retired from military service in 1973.

That same year, Sharon helped establish the Likud, serving as chairman for the election campaign staff.

Sharon was called back to duty for the Yom Kippur War, during which Sharon violated superiors' orders and for which he was later brought before a military tribunal. A photo taken of a wounded Sharon, his head bandaged, during this war has become a symbol of Israeli military pride.

From 1976 to 1977, Sharon served as a special aide to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. In the 1977 election year, Sharon attempted to replace Menachem Begin as head of the Likud, but was rejected. Sharon then established the short-lived Shlomtzion party, which won two Knesset seats.

Immediately after the 1977 election that brought Likud to power, Shlomtzion and Likud merged, and Sharon was appointed Minister of Agriculture.

During the 1982 Lebanon War, while Sharon served as defense minister, the Sabra and Shatila massacre took place, in which between 460 and 3,500 Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps were killed by Lebanese Christian forces. The Kahan Commission found that Sharon "bears personal responsibility" in the massacres and recommended in early 1983 the removal of Sharon from his post as defense minister.

In 1982, Sharon lead the evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula which was handed to Egypt, in keeping with the peace treaty.

Concurrently, Sharon encouraged the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, regarding this policy as a way to keep the land under Israeli control and prevent its return to the Palestinians.

Sharon remained in successive governments heading various ministries over the course of the following two decades. During Benjamin Netanyahu's tenure from 1996-1999, Sharon acted as minister of national infrastructure and later as foreign minister.

In 1999, Sharon was elected chairman of the Likud party.

On September 28, 2000 Sharon visited the Temple Mount, or Harem al-Sharif, in Jerusalem, and declared that the complex would remain under perpetual Israeli control. The controversail visit is widely seen as one of the triggers for the Palestinian Al-Aqsa intifada, which started several days later.

First Sharon cabinetAfter the collapse of the Camp David negotiations with the Palestinians and Ehud Barak's government in 2000, Sharon swept to victory in the February 2001 elections.

Sharon, who lead the country through years of unprecedented Palestinian terror, used a heavy hand to counter the violence.

It was during these years that Israel cut all ties with the Palestinian Authority, declaring Yasser Arafat "irrelevant."

In April 2002, the IDF took control over many Palestinian areas of the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield. The army also started its policy of targeted killing against Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza.

That year, Israel also began construction of the West Bank separation fence, which included parts of the West Bank on its western side.

Despite the high death toll that Israel suffered during the years of the Palestinian uprising, alongside the economic recession, Sharon enjoyed wide-spread support among Israelis and was reelected in the January 2003 general elections, and his Likud party doubled its number of Knesset seats.

Corruption chargesWhile enjoying wide public support, several corruption investigations were conducted against Sharon and his sons, stemming from illegal donations to his 1999 Likud primary campaign.

A number of the corruption charges were dropped during Sharon's second term, among them those relating to the "Greek Island affair," in which Sharon was suspected of having accepted bribes from businessman David Appel.

New allegations emerged in recent months, prompting Sharon's son Omri to hand in his resignation from the Knesset earlier this week, after admitting to charges related to the unlawful financing of his father's 2000 election campaign.

Second Sharon termSharon formed a right-wing government along with Shinui. He appointed Benjamin Netanyahu as finance minister and supported the latter's capitalist policies, which eventually resulted in economic growth.

Simultaneously, the peace process was relaunched in June 2003 when Sharon attended the Aqaba Summit with newly-elected Palestinian Authority prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom agreed to adopt the U.S.-backed road map peace initiative.

Following that agreement, the armed Palestinian factions agreed on a temporary cessation of violence, which was short-lived. As a result, Sharon authorized the targeted killing of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders.

DisengagementAfter deciding that the peace negotiations with the Palestinians were impossible, Sharon dropped a political bomb when announcing in February 2004 his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.

The disengagement plan marked a radical change in Sharon's views on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also brough about a transformation in Sharon's image in Israel and abroad.

The death of Yasser Arafat and the election of Abbas as the PA chairman also revived hopes for the renewal of the peace process between the two sides.

The disengagement plan was greeted with fierce opposition from within the Likud party, as well as other right-wing parties, on security, military, and religious grounds.

In January 2005, Sharon formed a national unity government that included representatives of Likud and Labor. Despite staunch opposition, the Knesset and the government approved the disengagement plan, which was carried out in August 2005.

Faced with unrelenting opposition within Likud, Sharon decided in November 2005 to dissolve the Knesset and break away from the Likud and form a new, centrist party called Kadima ["Forward"). Polls indicated that Sharon was likely win the upcoming March elections and that Kadima would attain some 40 seats in the Knesset.

In December 2005, Sharon spent two days in the hospital following reports of a minor stroke. Despite growing questions on his ability to continue as prime minister, Sharon returned to work and vowed to move forward with his plans.

On January 4, one day before he was to have had the small hole in his heart repaired by a cardiac catheterization procedure, Sharon was taken to hospital after suffering a severe stroke and massive brain hemorrhage.

Sharon underwent a nine-hour operation with prime ministerial duties being transferred to Ehud Olmert, who is currently Acting Prime Minister.

A number of subsequent procedures were performed to stop intracranial bleeding and relieve pressure on his brain. Sharon remained comatose throughout, his condition listed as stable but still serious for weeks.

On February 1, he again underwent surgery, this time to insert a feeding tube through his abdomen. Ten days later, his condition suddenly deteriorated. An abdominal scan revealed that blood was not reaching parts of his intestines and that his digestive tract had suffered severe damage. Hospital officials said his life was in danger, and he was rushed to emergency surgery.

Months later, he was transferred from Hadassah hospital to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer for long-term care.

Sheba officials said Monday that Sharon had contracted double pneumonia and that his condition had greatly deteriorated.

A new brain scan showed deterioration in his brain function, his urine output decreased significantly and a chest scan showed he had a new infection, they said.

Sharon was given broad-spectrum antibiotics and steroids, but did not respond to the treatment.

He died on XXXXX.