Sharon suffers ‘significant stroke’

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last night suffered what doctors told Israeli TV was a “significant stroke.”

The 78-year-old Sharon, who was treated for a minor stroke last month was rushed into hospital yesterday evening from his farm in the south of Israel. He had been scheduled to undergo a minor heart surgery today, and a handover of responsibility to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had already been planned.

That handover was brought forward after Sharon yesterday complained of pains and was taken by ambulance from his home to a nearby hospital.

Reportedly, the Israeli PM suffered a massive brain haemorrhage in the ambulance and was immediately taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem.

There, at time of writing, he was taken straight into the trauma room where he was undergoing emergency surgery, described as “very complicated.”

If Sharon has indeed suffered a major stroke, chances are virtually non-existent that he will recover in time for Israeli elections, which are scheduled for March. Israeli TV last night reported that doctors put his chances of a full recovery as very slim.

Israeli politics is likely to be thrown into quite serious disarray.

Sharon recently left the party he helped establish, the Likud, and established a new party, Kadima, “Forward,” that he was going to lead into the forthcoming elections, and which only yesterday was formally registered as a political party.

Kadima was extremely well received by the public according to opinion polls, but that was widely seen as a vote of confidence by the Israeli public in Sharon’s leadership.

Critics had called the party a one-man show, and it is not at all clear that the personalities left in Kadima, including Olmert and former Labour leader Shimon Peres have enough public cache to carry the party to victory.

But the same polls also show that Kadima took votes from both its rivals on the right in the Likud and on the left in Labour. Which, if any, of those parties — one led by Sharon’s implacable foe Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not widely trusted by the Israeli public, and the other led by the untried Amir Peretz — will benefit from the absence of Sharon remains to be seen.

If indeed Sharon is out of the picture, it will leave a highly volatile situation both in Israel and in Palestine, where growing chaos is threatening parliamentary elections scheduled for later this month.

Earlier Tuesday, the Israeli public were preoccupied with an alleged scandal involving Sharon and his son

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