Nightly News   |  January 11, 2014

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Dies

Eight years after a stroke left him in a vegetative state, the 85-year-old dies. NBC News' Martin Fletcher reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> he was a towering and controversial figure of the history of israel , a soldier and statesman known as a fierce and sometimes brutal defender of his country. former prime minister ariel sharon died today after being incapacitated for eight years following a stroke, he was 85. nbc's martin fletcher who covered him for decades, takes a look back.

>> reporter: hidden from view, the body of ariel sharon was driven from tel aviv today. his son said he chose his own time to go. while palestinians in gaza said, at least, a spokesperson said that sharon 's hands were covered in palestinian blood. ariel sharon symbolized the iron fist , he was a fighter all his life. 1948 , wounded in israel's war of independence . 1967 , after the six-day war he suppressed violence in occupied gaza , 1973 , a war hero , turning back egypt's surprise attack. general sharon 's military reputation, brutal and brilliant. his nickname? the bulldozer.

>> we have to hold the sword in one hand, not because we want it but in order to defend ourselves.

>> reporter: but in 1983 , he was banned from ever again being defense minister after lebanese-christians massacred palestinians in lebanon, and an inquiry found sharon responsible. he became israel 's prime minister in 2001 , the old war horse later stunned the nation yet again with talk of a deal with the palestinians .

>> for genuine real peace, we are ready to make compromises.

>> reporter: to keep some of the west bank , he believed that israel would have to give up most of the occupied territories , including gaza , where the organization forced out 9,000 jewish settlers , parts of the west bank could have been next but in 2006 , sharon fell victim to a massive stroke. monday afternoon there will be a private family burial at sharon 's beloved farm in the desert where he will be laid to rest next to his wife, lily.