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Ex-Israel premier Sharon dead at 85

TEL AVIV - (AFP) - Former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon died in hospital near Tel Aviv Saturday after eight years in a coma, prompting a flood of tributes in Israel but contempt from Palestinians. He was 85.

"He’s gone," his son Gilad told reporters at the Sheba Medical Centre in Tel HaShomer. "He went when he decided to go."



Sharon had been comatose since January 4, 2006, after suffering a massive stroke. His condition took a sudden turn for the worse on New Year’s Day when he suffered serious kidney problems after surgery.



Professor Shlomo Noy of Sheba hospital said Sharon’s heart "had weakened" and that he died at around 1200 GMT.



Sharon’s body would lie in state at Jerusalem’s Knesset, or parliament, on Sunday to enable citizens to pay their final respects between 1000 GMT and 1600 GMT, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.



Sharon will be buried on Monday afternoon at his ranch in the Negev desert in southern Israel in a military ceremony, after a memorial service in parliament starting at 0730 GMT, the statement read.



The burly white-haired Sharon was one of Israel’s most skilled but controversial political and military leaders. Hailed by many Israelis as a statesman, his ruthless methods also earned him the moniker "The Bulldozer".



As news of his death emerged, tributes poured in from Israel and abroad, but the Palestinians were quick to denounce him as a "criminal" who had escaped international justice.






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