JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 77, the most powerful Israeli
leader in 50 years, has died, Middle East Newsline reported.
However subsequent wire reports said Sharon showed "significant improvement" after five hours of emergency brain surgery Friday.
The confusion was exacerbated by the timing of the reports which came at the onset of the Jewish Sabbath, at sundown on Friday, when traditionally arrangements for the dead and burials are delayed until Saturday night.
Sharon was declared dead by physicians at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital
before 1 p.m. Israeli time [6 a.m. EST], the report stated. Authorities had already been
notified of the death, and a government announcement was expected to be
issued over the next hour, it continued.
However Reuters reported Sharon underwent emergency surgery to stem fresh bleeding in his brain. "During the surgery the cranial pressure was released and some of the blood clots that remained from the previous surgery were drained," Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital, told reporters.
"At the end of the operation there is no active bleeding," Mor-Yosef said after the nearly five-hour procedure.
The prime minister was felled by a massive stroke on late Jan. 4. A
nine-hour operation failed to repair what physicians and officials termed
was widespread damage to his brain and other vital organs.
A computed tomography scan taken on Friday morning showed little to no
brain activity in Sharon. At that point, Sharon's son, Omri, called aides
and senior officials to the hospital to prepare for an announcement of the
prime minister's death.
Sharon was expected to be succeeded by Vice Premier Ehud Olmert, who is
also the nation's finance minister. On Friday, Olmert met Sharon's political
ally, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, in an attempt to form a working
relationship ahead of parliamentary elections on March 28.