Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's condition has dramatically deteriorated and the 85-year-old leader was facing his "final hours", the hospital where he has been in coma since a 2006 stroke said on Friday.
Sharon's condition continued to be "grave" this morning as his health remained mostly unchanged since the hospital treating him announced yesterday of a dramatic deterioration in his medical status.
The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer said the comatose former premier was facing his "final hours".
The hospital downgraded Sharon's status to very critical yesterday. Hospital officials said he was in immediate danger of death and that others in his condition would not have lasted as long as he has.
"Unfortunately, they understand that this is the end, these are Arik's (Sharon's nickname) last days or even hours. It is hard. Eight years we have evaded this moment and now it is upon us, there is no escaping it," a close family source was quoted as saying by news portal Ynet.
The Sheba Medical Centre, in a statement, said, "Over the past hours, there has been a worsening of the condition of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His condition is described as grave and his family is at his side all the time." Sharon has been in coma since January 4, 2006 when he suffered a massive stroke while still at the helm of affairs.
The director general of Sheba Medical Center, Professor Zeev Rotstein, while giving an update on the former Premier's condition four days ago had said that "in the last 24 hours the risk on (Sharon's) life has not decreased, and has even increased."
He had emphasised that even though Sharon's heart had stabilised, there was deterioration in other organs of his body.
"In my opinion, if there won't be a miraculous dramatic change, the situation will continue getting worse by the day," Rotstein had said.
Sharon is suffering from a blood infection and kidney failure.
He is revered by many in Israel as "Mr. Security" for his contributions in all the major wars since Israel's independence. He is reviled in equal measure in the Arab world as the "butcher of Sabra and Shatila".
While serving as defence minister in 1982, he masterminded Israel's invasion of Lebanon. During the invasion, Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps - Sabra and Shatila - under Israeli control.
He was nevertheless elected prime minister 18 years later, pledging to achieve "security and true peace", and served until his second stroke.