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Former Israel PM Ariel Sharon is dead at age 85

Former Israeli Prime Minister and military leader, Ariel Sharon [BBC backgrounder], was pronounced dead [Guardian obituary] on Saturday at the age of 85. Sharon suffered a major stroke in January of 2006, which placed him in a coma for the remainder of his life and resulted in a declaration of official incapacitation [JURIST report] while he was serving as PM. He was elected to serve as PM in 2001 and he held the post until his health removed him from the position in 2006. His coffin will lie in state at the Israeli parliament on Sunday and an official state ceremony will be held on Monday morning at the Knesset. Sharon was a military leader, but he was forced to resign as defense minister following his role in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians [AhramOnline report] in a conflict in Lebanon in 1982. He was a controversial figure internationally, but highly regarded as one of the most famous generals and politicians in Israel, where he was known as "the bulldozer" for his size and strong will. US President Barack Obama issued a statement [press release] on Saturday to commend the life of Sharon.

After Ariel Sharon's health began to decline, Sharon's son received attention for his role in campaign finance violations and fraud. Omri Sharon plead guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail for corruption [JURIST report] in 2006. The following year, he earned a reduced sentence on appeal, but in 2008 the Israeli Supreme Court refused to reduce his sentence further and he was forced to serve seven months for his crimes [JURIST reports].

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