Ariel Sharon, widely considered one of Israel's greatest leaders, succumbs to heart failure after eight years in a coma • Sharon's casket will lie in state at the Knesset on Sunday • Former prime minister to be laid to rest with full military honors.
Gadi Golan, Gideon Allon, Shlomo Cesana, Shlomi Diaz, Meital Yasur Beit-Or and Israel Hayom Staff
Members of the Knesset guard carry the coffin of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset plaza, in Jerusalem
Photo credit: AP
IDF generals salute the coffin of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset plaza, in Jerusalem
Photo credit: AP
President Shimon Peres lays a wreath next to the casket of late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Sunday
Photo credit: Dudi Vaaknin
The late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Photo credit: Ziv Koren
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Sharon, 85, who was rendered comatose in 2006 by a massive stroke, while in office, passed away from complications due to organ failure. His sons, Omri and Gilad, were by his side.
"Dad passed away when he was good and ready," Gilad Sharon told reporters gathered outside the hospital's Respiratory Care and Rehabilitation Unit, shortly after the former prime minister's death.
"We are grateful to Sheba Medical Center, to Dr. Aryeh Wellner, head of the Respiratory Care and Rehabilitation Unit, to Dr. Marina Gershman, the attending physician and to the entire medical staff, nurses and other caregivers. Thank you all," he said.
He also expressed the family's gratitude to the hospital's administration: "Thank you to Dr. Shlomo Segev, his personal physician and a family friend, Professor Shlomo Noy, director of the Rehabilitation Hospital and Sheba Director-General Professor Zeev Rotstein."
Sharon's eldest son also thanked the medical staff at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, where Sharon was first hospitalized after suffering a massive stroke in 2006, as well as "the public in Israel and around the world, for keeping him in their prayers."
Noy later read the formal hospital statement announcing Sharon's death: "We regret to announce that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died. He was a patient here for over seven years. His medical condition had its ups and downs. ... He had overcome various complications related to his condition, and he waged a battle against all odds in a manner that attested to his strength and tenacity, especially over the past week.
"Over the past week he suffered from a drastic decline in his health, and in a situation like this it is eventually heart failure that brings about death. Today, his heart stopped. Mr. Sharon was treated with care, compassion and professionalism. May he rest in peace."
The Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies convened on Saturday evening, stating that the former prime minister will receive a state service with full military honors.
Sharon's casket will lie in state at the Knesset Plaza Sunday between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., to enable the public to pay its last respects to a man widely considered as one of Israel's greatest leaders.
The Knesset has made shuttles available to the public from central Jerusalem and Latrun, west of the capital, as no private vehicles would be allowed near its plaza for security reasons.
The official state ceremony honoring Sharon will be held on Monday morning at the Knesset, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in attendance.
Various foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and former British Primer Tony Blair, will attend the service, as will high-ranking officials from Canada, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic, to name a few.
Israel's leaders are usually entombed in the Resting Place of Great Leaders of the Nation on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, but per Sharon's explicit request, he will be buried next to his wife of 37 years, Lily, on the Hill of the Anemones, just outside Sycamore Ranch -- his family home in southern Israel.
Sharon's casket will be carried to its final resting place by six Israel Defense Forces majors-general. He will be laid to rest at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.