NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Ariel Sharon, the Israeli military and political leader who helped reshape the Middle East over a half-century, died Saturday, Israeli Army Radio reported. He was 85.
Sharon had been in a coma since he suffered a stroke eight years ago. His health deteriorated over the last week as he lost function in some organs, and doctors downgraded his condition to "grave" on Thursday.
The Associated Press quoted Sharon's son Gilad as saying: "He has gone. He went when he decided to go."
President Shimon Peres of Israel said in a statement: "Arik loved his people, and his people loved him. He was one of Israel's greatest defenders and chief architects, who never knew fear and never lack for vision. Sharon knew how to decide and how to act."
The New York Times described Sharon as "a cunning and unforgiving general who went on to hold nearly every top government post, including prime minister."
The Washington Post said he "epitomized the country's warrior past even as he sought to become the architect of a peaceful future."
"Critics said Mr. Sharon suffered from a Napoleon complex and consciously encouraged a cult of personality that posed a threat to democracy," the Post said. "He insisted that he had never wavered from his primary principle of unswerving devotion to the state and to the Jewish people."
The Wall Street Journal said, "Mr. Sharon left behind a reconfigured Israeli politics when he exited the stage after suffering a stroke."