Ariel Sharon

An Israeli powerhouse,Sharon was a central figure in the nation's military and political history.

Ariel Sharon, standing center right, briefs his Israeli military unit before an operation in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 30, 1955. Sharon, who was born in 1928, went on to become a towering figure in the military and political life of Israel, serving as the country's prime minister from 2001 to 2006. Comatose since a 2006 stroke, 85-year old Sharon was in a coma for eight years at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, until in his death in January 2014.


Ariel Sharon, second from left, stands with Moshe Dayan, wearing eyepatch, and other military commanders in October 1955.

Handout / X80001

Maj. General Ariel Sharon, left, with Israeli politician Menachem Begin on the southern front of the Six Day War in the Sinai Desert, June 16, 1967. In the conflict with Arab neighbors Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Sharon commanded a significant breakthrough on the Sinai front. The outcome of the war was Israel's control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. In its aftermath, Sharon was appointed the head of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Begin was a right-leaning political ally, and would later become prime minister, easing Sharon's political ascent.


Ariel Sharon, left, as head of the Israeli Defense Force's Southern Command, gives an explanation during a visit by former long-time Prime Minister David Ben Gurion along the Egyptian Border near the Suez Canal in January 1971.

Ziv Koren

Ariel Sharon in a meeting while he was a commander of the southern region in late 1972. He left the military for politics shortly thereafter but was called back after the 1973 Yom Kippur War began. In that conflict, Egypt and Syria invaded the Sinai and Golan Heights in an effort to reclaim the territory, which had been controlled by Israel since 1967. Sharon, assigned to command a reserve armored division, was instrumental in locating a breach in the Egyptian forces, and cutting their supply lines. Even though he violated orders from the Southern Command in the process, and would later be discharged from all duties, the success earned him war hero status.


Ariel Sharon, in his role as Israel's agriculture minister, gives a briefing to Prime Minister Menahem Begin, third from right, in the West Bank settlement of Alon Moreh in February 1981. For years, Sharon promoted Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, before doing an about-face that led to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.


Defense minister Ariel Sharon testifying before the judicial inquiry commission investigating the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the 1982 Lebanon War. Lebanese Christian forces had killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians in refugee camps, while Israeli forces provided logistical support. Sharon was found to have indirect responsibility, and was relieved of his post as defense minister for failing to anticipate and prevent the slaughter. He went on to a series of other government positions.

G.p.o./sipa / SIPA

Ariel Sharon, leader of the then-opposition Likud Party, prays at the Western Wall following a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on Sept. 28, 2000. His visit to the disputed holy site provoked rioting among Palestinians, and marked the start of the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising. Sharon contended that the uprising was planned in advance.

Yossi Zamir

Ariel Sharon, Likud Party candidate for prime minister, casts his ballot at a polling station in Jerusalem in February 2001. Sharon, known as a hawk on Israeli-Palestinian affairs, easily defeated Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who had staked his job on a peace treaty with the Palestinians which he was unable to deliver.

Lefteris Pitarakis / ZOOM 77

On Sharon's watch, the Israeli army blows up a building in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah Sept. 20, 2002. The move was part of a massive Israeli military operation dubbed Operation Defensive Shield in which Israeli forces entered cities and villages to root out suspected Palestinian terrorists, a response to militant bombings in Israel. Attacks and counterattacks went on for months, causing hundreds of civilian and combatant casualties on both sides.

Atta Oweisat / AFP

After months of bloody attacks and counter attacks, then Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with Ariel Sharon as U.S. President George Bush looks on after their summit in Jordan on June 4, 2003. After a halting start, Abbas would emerge as Arafat's successor in 2005 elections, and call for an end to the Intifada and a return to peaceful resistance. It was enough to reopen channels between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.

Hussein Malla / AP

An aerial shot shows a portion of a huge security barrier in the West Bank town of Abu Dis on the edge of Jerusalem in October 2005. The project, masterminded by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was justified as a barrier to attackers targeting Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But Palestinians condemned the wall of electric fencing, barbed wire and concrete as an attempt to grab their land and undermine the viability of their promised state. In July 2004, the U.N. International Court of Justice issued a non-binding ruling that parts of the 410-mile barrier were illegal and should be torn down.

Gali Tibbon / AFP

An Israeli protester holds a poster of Ariel Sharon in front of the Israeli prime minister's house while he meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem on June 21, 2005. Their discussions were aimed at ensuring a smooth Israeli pullout from Gaza and addressing remaining obstacles to peace. The move was condemned as a dangerous retreat by some Israelis.

Goran Tomasevic / X90012

Israeli soldiers force Jewish settlers to leave the area around the synagogue of the southern Gaza Strip settlement of Neve Dekalim on Aug. 17, 2005. Their eviction came after some residents defied a midnight deadline to leave voluntarily. The withdrawal, devised by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and approved by the Israeli government in Feb. 2005, required the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in Gaza and removal of all Israeli settlers and military bases from the Strip. The policy, marking a reversal on Sharon's earlier position, caused an irreparable rift in his Likud Party.

Thomas Coex / AFP

Israeli armored personnel carriers and tanks exit the Gaza Strip at the Kissofim crossing on Sept. 12, 2005. The withdrawal, engineered by Ariel Sharon, ended 38 years of Israeli military rule in the area.

Eyal Warshavsky/baubau/gamma / BAUBAU / IL

President George W. Bush emphasizes a point as he shares a moment with Ariel Sharon during Sharon's visit to the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas on April 11, 2005. The two leaders held frequent meetings.


Ariel Sharon casts his ballot in Tel Aviv on Sept. 26, 2005. Sharon narrowly defeated Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to force early primaries for the Likud leadership.

Pavel Wolberg/epa/sipa / EPA

Palestinians watch Ariel Sharon's press conference at their home in the West Bank city of Hebron on Nov. 21, 2005. Sharon quit the right-wing Likud party to lead a new centrist party into early national elections, taking a gamble that was expected to reshape Israeli politics for years to come.

Nayef Hashlamoun / X00952

Ariel Sharon emerges from Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem on Dec. 20, 2005, two days after suffering a mild stroke. Sharon was scheduled to have a minor heart surgery on Jan. 5, 2006, but suffered another stroke a day before that.

Pool / Getty Images Europe

Ariel Sharon pauses during a special session in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, on Oct. 26, 2004. Sharon was in a coma for eight years at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, until his death in January 2014.

Lefteris Pitarakis / AP