Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, one of his nation's most controversial and iconic leaders for a half-century — on and off the battlefield — died Saturday at the age of 85, of complications from a stroke eight years ago.
Sharon's son, Gilad Sharon, announced his death Saturday afternoon outside the hospital where he was being treated. "He has gone. He went when he decided to go," he said.
The death of Sharon, known by his nickname "Arik" to generations of Israelis, ends a tumultuous career that spanned the heights and depths of public life and Israeli history.
Sharon was a military leader who led Israeli troops against Arab armies in every war from independence in 1948 until his stroke 58 years later. He was defense minister in 1982, when Israel attacked Lebanon in an attempt to oust the Palestinian Liberation Organization and reduce Syria's stranglehold over Lebanon. Sharon was forced to resign after Lebanese Christian militias sent into the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps to weed out the PLO murdered hundreds of Palestinian civilians.