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Mr. Sharon was a highly decorated military officer who fought in three wars before entering politics in the 1970s and serving in a series of top ministerial posts. He was elected prime minister in 2001 and led Israel for the next five years until he was incapacitated.

Shortly before his stroke, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending a 38-year military occupation of the territory, bolted his hard-line Likud Party and established the centrist Kadima Party. He appeared on his way to an easy re-election when he suffered the stroke. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, took over and was elected prime minister a few months later.

Mr. Sharon had a first, small stroke in December 2005 and was put on blood thinners before experiencing a severe brain hemorrhage on Jan. 4, 2006. After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Mr. Sharon was transferred to the long-term-care facility at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

After his second stroke, doctors performed several extensive emergency brain operations to stop cerebral hemorrhaging. After a long stay at the hospital, he was taken for a brief period to his home in southern Israel. He was rushed at least once into hospital intensive care for dialysis after his kidneys began failing.