JERUSALEM, Jan 9 (Reuters) - The condition of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a coma since 2006, has deteriorated sharply in recent hours and he is close to death, the hospital treating him said on Thursday.
Sharon, 85, has been on life support and out of the public gaze since suffering a massive stroke eight years ago. His vital organs started to fail a week ago at the Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.
One of Israel's most famous generals, Sharon left his mark on the region through military invasion, Jewish settlement building on captured land and a shock, unilateral decision to pull Israeli troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Crispian Balmer)