Ex-Israeli PM and military commander Ariel Sharon dead at 85
Ex-Israeli PM and military commander Ariel Sharon dead at 85

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died on Saturday at 85 eight years after suffering a massive stroke.

He died at Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv, where he has been in a coma since being hit by a stroke at the pinnacle of his power as prime minister in January 2006. Doctors there had reported a precipitous decline in his condition last week.

"Sharon was a criminal, responsible for the assassination of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, and we would have hoped to see him appear before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal," said Jibril Rajub, a senior official of the Fatah party.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said Sharon's death was a "historic moment",  marking the "disappearance of a criminal whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood".

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, also regretted that Sharon never

In 1982, as defence minister, Sharon masterminded Israel's disastrous invasion of Lebanon, when troops besieged the Beirut headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

His term as defence minister was ended after an Israeli committee placed personal but "indirect" responsibility on him for the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel's Lebanese Phalangist allies in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

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