Former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon has passed away at the age of 85. The former prime minister, defense minister, and general had been comatose since Jan. 2006, when he suffered a series of strokes that resulted in his permanent hospitalization. Sharon was among the last surviving members of the generation that founded, and fought for, the State of Israel in 1948. His ideological foe, President Shimon Peres, is another.

For much of his career, Sharon was known as a military and political hard-liner. He was a lieutenant in the 1948 war, which began after Palestinian Arabs and surrounding Arab states attacked the fledgling Jewish state rather than accept the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab countries. Sharon was seriously wounded at the Battle of Latrun–one of the Arab forces’ few victories, thanks to Jordan’s British-trained Arab Legion.

Following the armistice, Sharon led an elite Israeli guerrilla unit that conducted cross-border reprisals and raids to deter Palestinian fedayeen from carrying out terror attacks inside Israel. His aggressive tactics drew criticism from fellow Israeli leaders–and cultivated a fearsome reputation in the Arab world. He continued to cause controversy with his preference for offensive rather than defensive tactics in Israel’s subsequent wars.

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