Ariel Sharon was still in terminal condition Saturday, after his health ”dramatically deteriorated” late Thursday afternoon, hospital officials said.
The former prime minister now suffers from kidney failure and blood infection, and is in “immediate, life-threatening critical condition,” they said.
Among those by his side were the man he appointed to head the Mossad intelligence agency, Meir Dagan.
Sharon, 85, has been in a coma since suffering a debilitating stroke in 2006. His condition, long stable, took a turn for the worse last week and doctors at Sheba Medical Center, at Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv, have been issuing intermittent updates detailing his deteriorating condition.
Hospital director Zeev Rotstein said earlier in the week that “if we don’t see a change on the scale of a miracle, his situation will continue to get worse each day.”
On Sunday, Rotstein said Sharon’s heartbeat and blood pressure were “good,” and reiterated the assessment on Monday. An infection in his bloodstream was also being kept under control with antibiotics, he said.
“We knew he had a good heart, and now we know he has a strong heart,” he said, but added that Sharon’s life was still in “immediate danger” and there was no cause for optimism.
Sharon is “a true lion” who “continues to fight for his life,” the hospital director added Sunday.
His family remained at his bedside, the hospital said, and former soldiers who fought alongside him were among the visiting well-wishers.
“People come throughout the day, to talk, to support his sons at this difficult hour,” Rotstein said Monday.
Doctors said Sharon was suffering from renal failure that could lead to multiple organ system failure and death. Sharon has been hospitalized at Sheba for seven years.
The hospital director said last week that while Sharon’s condition had “seen ups and downs” in the past two-and-a-half months, his life was now in danger.
“The danger [to Sharon's life] exists, [but] as we know, Arik [Sharon] is a powerful man and has survived difficult situations during his time in our hospital,” he continued. “I’m no prophet, but the feeling among the doctors treating him and the family by his side… is that he has taken a turn for the worse.”
Rotstein added that Sharon wasn’t receiving dialysis treatment for his kidney collapse, as it was not recommended for a patient with multiple organ failure. He said the ex-prime minister had received antibiotic treatment in recent weeks for infections that caused his condition to deteriorate.
“He is receiving all the treatments that a patient in his condition should receive,” he said.
In September 2013, doctors reinstalled a feeding tube in Sharon’s digestive system. The procedure was completed without incident, and the former prime minister was returned to the hospital’s Department of Respiratory Care and Rehabilitation, where he has been in treatment in recent years.
Sharon is one of Israel’s most iconic and controversial figures. As one of Israel’s most famous generals, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders. As a politician he became known as “The Bulldozer,” a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.
As defense minister, he led Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and was forced to resign the post after a commission of inquiry found him responsible for failing to prevent the massacre by Christian Phalangists of Palestinian refugees in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila camps.
A prominent hard-line voice over the decades, he was elected prime minister in 2001.
In mid-2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending a 38-year military control of the territory. It was a shocking turnaround for a man who had been a leading player in building Jewish settlements in captured territories.
He bolted the Likud party soon after and established the centrist Kadima party, where he was joined by Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. He appeared on his way to an easy reelection when he suffered a severe stroke in January 2006. His deputy, Olmert, took over and was elected prime minister a few months later.
Sharon had a first, small stroke in December 2005 and was put on blood thinners before experiencing a severe brain hemorrhage on January 4, 2006. After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Sharon was transferred to the long-term care facility at Tel Hashomer Hospital. He was taken home briefly at one point, but was returned to the hospital, where he has been since.
AP contributed to this report.