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Israelis remember stricken Sharon

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Israelis marked two years since Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke.

Marking the second anniversary of the Jan. 4, 2006 brain hemorrhage that ended the former prime minister’s career and shook the Middle East, Israeli newspapers on Thursday published never-before-seen pictures of Sharon as a child, while radio stations interviewed his aides and confidants.

The comatose Sharon, 79, is in a long-term care ward at Tel Hashomer hospital, where a select group of relatives and friends visit regularly, doctors said. He is sometimes propped up in front of the television, eyes open, though he is not responsive.

During his visit to Israel next week, U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to meet Sharon’s sons, Gilad and Omri. Omri Sharon is due to serve a prison term for a fraud conviction, but his imprisonment has been delayed repeatedly due to his father’s condition.

Bush hailed Ariel Sharon, a former general, as a “man of peace” after he decided to pull Israeli troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005. But many Israelis now see that move as having led directly to the rise of Hamas in Gaza.

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