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Israel marks four years of Ariel Sharon's coma

    Israel has marked the fourth anniversary of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s coma after a massive stroke.

    Mr Sharon, 81, has been in a coma since 2006 and is currently in a care facility in Ra’anana, outside Tel Aviv. He suffered a stroke several months after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

    He was elected Prime Minister in 2001 as head of Likud, but abandoned his old party after making enemies when he backed the withdrawal from Gaza.

    He formed new party Kadima to run in the 2006 elections. The popular leader seemed destined for re-election with his new party when he suffered a severe brain haemorrhage.

    Doctors believe it is unlikely Mr Sharon will ever regain consciousness, despite being able to breathe unassisted.

    If Mr Sharon to awake from his four-year coma, he would find a changed Israel. Just after his stroke Hamas won control of Gaza in the January 2006 elections.

    After his absence for 100 days, his deputy Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister in his place, only to resign amid allegations of corruption to be replaced by Tzipi Livni.

    But Mr Sharon’s Kadima party had even more woes to come, despite its strong support. Ms Livni failed to form a coalition and Binyamin Netanyahu, Mr Sharon’s long time Likud rival, became Prime Minister in 2008.

    The former Prime Minister was also unconscious throughout Operation Cast Lead, Barak Obama’s presidential election and the terrorist attacks in the UK.

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