Sharon in hospital after minor stroke

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Dec 18, 2005.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, battling for re-election after spearheading a pullout from Gaza, suffered a minor stroke on Sunday and was rushed to hospital, where doctors said his life was in no danger.

    The 77-year-old former general has been a pivotal figure in the Middle East for decades and turned Israeli politics on its head by evacuating Jewish settlers from Gaza and then quitting his party with a vow to seek peace with the Palestinians.

    "I feel fine," Sharon was quoted as saying by aides. Israeli television said he had quipped to doctors: "You're not getting rid of me yet."

    Sharon felt unwell after meeting veteran statesman Shimon Peres at his Jerusalem office and was rushed to nearby Hadassah hospital for a brain scan. Medics said he lost consciousness for several minutes and tests revealed a minor stroke.

    Doctors told Sharon he could expect to stay in hospital for three to four days.

    "There is no reason for fear," said his personal physician Boleslav Goldman.

    Sharon led the most dramatic turnaround in Israeli politics for decades by withdrawing settlers and soldiers from Gaza in August and September and then breaking with his rightist Likud party, saying he wanted to pursue peacemaking with Palestinians.

    Sharon is very much a one-man show and if he were forced from the political stage it would inevitably mean another upheaval, but aides rushed to say that there was no question of anyone standing in for him even temporarily.

    "He is fully lucid, in full control," said spokesman Raanan Gissin.

    With the Gaza withdrawal, the first from occupied land on which Palestinians want to found a state, the "Bulldozer" redefined his image as the archetypal Israeli hawk and won worldwide applause for a step that could boost peacemaking.


    The hospital was inundated with goodwill messages from around the world. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wished Sharon a speedy recovery. So did the White House.

    But in the Gaza Strip, some Palestinians fired rifles in the air and handed out sweets in celebration, shouting "Death to Sharon." Some ultra-rightist Jews, who feel Sharon betrayed the settlement cause, also prayed that he would die.

    Channel One television said Sharon had been speaking on the telephone from his car with one of his sons, Gilad, when he told him: "I don't feel well."

    "Dad, go to hospital immediately," Gilad replied.

    Sharon's motorcade then sped to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed a minor stroke caused by a blockage of blood to the brain.

    Doctors usually have a three-hour window after a stroke in which to administer a drug called TPA to try to dissolve a blood clot.

    The portly Sharon has occasionally looked drawn during the months of struggling to push through the withdrawal, but there have been no major health scares until now.

    Minor strokes can cause temporary weakness or numbness in arms and legs, as well as speech difficulties.

    Sharon is in the midst of a campaign to win re-election in a March 28 national ballot at the head of a new centrist movement he established last month after quitting the Likud party in the face of a far-right rebellion over the Gaza withdrawal.

    Polls show Sharon as very likely to win a third term at the head of the new Kadima party.

    Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would assume Sharon's duties in the event of the prime minister's disability or death.

    Political analysts said no figure had dominated Israel to the same extent as Sharon since founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

    "The moment he goes, everything will change," said Shmuel Sandler of Bar-Ilan University.

    (Additional reporting by Ori Lewis, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Jonathan Saul in Jerusalem, Wafa Amr in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)
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