Ariel Sharon, whose half century was a military and political leader in Israel, died Saturday after eight years in a coma, Israeli Army Radio confirmed. The politician was 85.
Sharon passed away at Sheba Medical Center in the Tel Aviv suburb of Tel Hashomer, writes CNN.
The former Israeli prime minister was a national war hero to many people for his leadership, both in uniform or as a civilian, during every Israeli war.
Many Arab leaders called Sharon “the Butcher of Beirut” after he oversaw Israel’s invasion of Lebanon back in 1892 while occupiying the post of the country’s defense minister.
Ariel Sharon was a key figure in many defining events in the Middle East for many years, including his decision to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.
Reactions from Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as other world leaders, to the death of Ariel Sharon appeared to be mixed, reports Al Jazeera.
“The State of Israel bows its head over the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,” current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, expressing “deep sorrow” over the news. “His memory will forever be held in the heart of the nation,” he added.
However, one of the most prominent figures from the Palestinian Fatah party blamed Sharon for the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“Sharon was a criminal, responsible for the assassination of Arafat, and we would have hoped to see him appear before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal,” Jibril Rajub said.
Khalil al-Hayya, a leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said: “We will remember Ariel Sharon as the man who killed, destroyed and caused the suffering for several Palestinian generations. After eight years, he is going the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood.”
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his “deepest condolences” to Sharon’s family and the Israeli people. “We join with the Israeli people in honouring his commitment to his country,” Obama said.
French President Francois Hollande called the passed away politician “a major player in the history of his country”.
“After [a] long military and political career he chose to move towards the dialogue with Palestine. I am offering my sincere condolences to his family and people of Israel,” he said.
A United Nations spokesman said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “saddened” by Sharon’s death.
“Prime Minister Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. His successor faces the difficult challenge of realising the aspirations of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people,” a UN statement said.
Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, posted on Twitter: “Ariel Sharon was a great leader of Israel. A brilliant military commander, but also a wise statesman seeing the necessity of peace.”