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Ariel Sharon's Death

Ariel Sharon

The life and death of Ariel Sharon:

He was nicknamed "the Bulldozer" and was as complex and controversial a military and political leader as there was, in one of the world's most complex regions. Some of his countrymen loved him. Others were disappointed and befuddled by his actions. And his enemies truly hated him.

Ariel Sharon was born in what was then the British mandate of Palestine, to a family of Lithuanian Jews. By the age of 10, he joined the Zionist youth movement and later joined the military precursor to the Israeli Defense forces, the Haganah.

Ariel Sharon as part of the Haganah

Sharon was a celebrated military strategist and his military career flourished as he became a commander in the Israeli army. He was instrumental in all his country's major wars, including the 1956 Suez War, the Six-Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and as Minister of Defense, directed the 1982 Lebanon War.

Ariel Sharon as commander in the Israeli army

However, as a military leader his tactics were sometimes questioned, like when he headed a commando unit charged with leading what Israel called "reprisal raids" in the 1950's. His men killed 69 civilians when they blew up houses in a West Bank village.

In 1956, he was reprimanded for engaging with Egyptian forces in a battle that his commanders considered unnecessary.

Furthermore, as Israeli Defense Minister during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, he revised the aims of a strike to expel Palestinian militants from southern Lebanon and sent troops as far north as Beirut.

Ariel Sharon during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon

While Sharon got the Palestine Liberation Organization out of its Lebanon base, massacres in refugee camps by Israeli-allied Christian militias triggered such controversy, that Sharon was ultimately forced out of the defense ministry. He claimed he couldn't anticipate the slaughter.

His Arab enemies were far from placated.

After the 1973 war, Sharon got into politics, joining the Likud Party after retiring from the military. He served in a number of ministerial posts, became the party leader in 2000 before becoming Israeli Prime Minister from 2001 through 2006.

However, in the months leading up to his stroke, Sharon shocked his political base by expelling Jewish Settlers from 21 Gaza settlements and from four on the West Bank. U.S. President George W. Bush called him "a man of peace", by making painful concessions to the Palestinians.

Sharon also resigned from the Likud Party, and formed a new centrist party called Kadima, which means forward.

Sharon suffered a mild stroke in December, 2005 and was released from the hospital after two days. However, almost two weeks later he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage from which he never recovered. When he suffered that January, 2006 stroke – Sharon was at the height of his political power and remained comatose until his death eight years later.

In his personal life, Sharon's first wife Margalit was killed in a 1962 car accident. Their son Gur died in 1967 at age 11, after playing with his father's gun.

A year after his first wife died, Sharon married his sister in law Lily.

Ariel Sharon with his 2nd wife, Lily

She died in 2000 of lung cancer.

Ariel and his sister had two sons, who survive him - Gilad and Omri.

Ariel Sharon with his 2 sons