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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dead at 85

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 12th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

One of the Israel's most iconic and controversial leaders, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died at the age of 85. He had spent the last eight years of his life in a coma. Unafraid the beat the drums of war, Sharon was called by many as "The Bulldozer." Sharon had nonetheless begun to offer olive branches towards the end of his career.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sharon was considered the architect of Israel's disputed settlement project and a bloody war in Lebanon. Born in 1928 in the agricultural Moshav Kfar Malal, Sharon joined a paramilitary youth battalion at age 14. He was later involved in fighting against the British Mandate.
 
Known as a brilliant strategist and fearless fighter who sometimes overlooked orders, Sharon was nicknamed "The King of Israel. A soldier in Israel's army since its inception in 1948, Sharon started off as a paratrooper during the War of Independence. He played pivotal parts in each of the nations' subsequent wars.

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He founded Unit 101 in the 1950s, a Special Forces crew that carried out reprisal operations against Palestinians. During the Six Days War in 1967, he led the crucial armored division that stormed through the Sinai.

During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Sharon left retirement to head a ground maneuver in the Sinai to cut off the Egyptian Army's. Regarded as the turning point in that conflict, a picture depicting the famed general with a bandaged head near the Suez Canal became an iconic image in his country.

As a politician in the 1970s, Sharon encouraged Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, arguing they were necessary to prevent the return of refugees to the occupied territories. The number of Jewish outposts doubled during his tenure. Given the duty as Minister of Defense, he piloted the army into the 1982 Lebanon War. He was blamed for the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian militias during the conflict and an investigative commission recommended his removal from the ministry post.

Sharon bore personal responsibility "for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge" and "not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed."

Sharon was elected Israel's 11th prime minister in 2001 and announced his commitment to peace with the Palestinians. He formed a coalition government in 2005 and despite opposition within his own Likud Party and other right wing factions, led the disengagement from Gaza, expelling nearly 10,000 Jewish settlers from the narrow southern strip.

Primed to win reelection at the pinnacle of his political power, Sharon suffered a massive brain hemorrhage in January 2006, a month after having a small stroke. Remaining in a vegetative state, he faced a setback in recent weeks, leading to massive organ failure.

While tributes pour in worldwide for the departed leader, his son Gilad Sharon put it most eloquently when he said "He has gone. He went when he decided to go."

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