Israeli Leader Sharon Suffers Massive Stroke

Addressing reporters in English, Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef said Sharon had “massive bleeding and was being transferred to an operating theater.”

Channel 2 TV said Sharon, 77, was suffering from paralysis in his lower body and was rushed from his Negev desert ranch to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem just hours before he was scheduled to undergo a procedure to correct a heart defect that contributed to his Dec. 18 stroke, which was much milder.

In the meantime, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said Sharon’s authorities have been transferred to Vice Premier Ehud Olmert, marking the first time an Israeli prime minister has relinquished authority because of illness.

Doctors checking Sharon after his December stroke found him in relative good health, but did discover a birth defect in his heart that may have contributed to the stroke.

Sharon has been taking blood thinners to prevent the clotting that caused the first stroke, and was to check into the hospital on Thursday for a procedure to repair a tiny hole between the upper chambers of his heart.

The 11th prime minister of Israel, Sharon has been in office since 2001.