January 10, 2014 10:28:03 AM
JERUSALEM -- Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health deteriorated sharply Thursday and he was in "grave condition" with his family by his bedside, the hospital treating him announced.
Sharon, who has been in a coma since suffering a stroke eight years ago, experienced a setback last week with a decline in his kidneys and other key bodily organs.
The Sheba Medical Center called his condition "grave" but gave no further details.
Sharon, one of Israel's most controversial and iconic figures, suffered the stroke at the height of his political power.
Sharon's career stretched across most of Israel's 65-year history.
As one of Israel's most famous generals, he was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders. As a politician, he became known as "the bulldozer" -- contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.
He engineered Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and lost his job as defense minister after an Israeli-allied Christian militia killed hundreds of Palestinians at refugee camps in west Beirut, sparking international outrage.
Sharon managed to slowly rehabilitate his political career. For years, he was a driving force in the movement to build settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.