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Comatose Sharon in critical condition
JERUSALEM – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for eight years, was in critical condition Thursday, clinging to life after a decline in the functioning of various bodily organs, his doctors said.
Dr. Zeev Rotstein, director of Tel Hashomer hospital, said the 85-year-old Sharon’s condition had deteriorated the past two days and that some vital organs, including his kidneys, were suffering from “critical malfunction.” His family was at his bedside, he added.
“He is in critical condition, and his life is definitely in danger,” Rotstein told reporters at the hospital, just outside Tel Aviv. “The feeling of the doctors treating him and also that of the family with him is that there is a turn for the worse.”
Israeli TV stations were broadcasting live from the hospital, reporting all the comings and goings, while retrospectives on Sharon’s life were televised, along with interviews with longtime friends and political allies.

Mideast peace talks enter testy phase

Sharon

– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted his Palestinian partner in peacemaking efforts Thursday, accusing him of embracing terrorists “as heroes,” harsh words that clouded the start of Secretary of State John Kerry’s 10th trip to the region to negotiate a peace deal he claims is “not mission impossible.”

Kerry arrived in Israel to broker negotiations, now entering a difficult phase, aimed at creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He had dinner with Netanyahu and planned to be in the West Bank today to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry is asking both leaders to make tough, highly charged political decisions in hopes of narrowing differences on a framework that will outline a final peace pact.

Netanyahu greeted Kerry at the prime minister’s office and joked that it had been a long time since he’d seen him. But after the initial small talk, the Israeli leader took aim at Abbas.

He claimed Abbas’ homecoming for Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails this week had led more Israelis to wonder if the Palestinians seriously want to find a way to end the decadeslong dispute.

“I know that you’re committed to peace,” Netanyahu told Kerry. “I know that I’m committed to peace. But unfortunately, given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace.”

Netanyahu was referring to events surrounding Israel’s release Tuesday of more than two dozen Palestinian prisoners convicted in deadly attacks against Israelis. Netanyahu has faced political pressure from Israeli hard-liners for agreeing to release a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners as part of the U.S.-brokered package to restart the peace talks.

As with earlier releases, the Palestinian prisoners received a hero’s welcome upon their return to the West Bank and Gaza, with officials and jubilant relatives lining up to greet them.

While he gave them a hero’s welcome, Abbas, a long-standing critic of violence who has pledged his commitment to a two-state solution, did not condone the prisoners’ deeds.

Netanyahu, however, accused Abbas of embracing terrorists “as heroes.”

“To glorify the murders of innocent women and men as heroes is an outrage. … This is not the way to achieve peace,” Netanyahu said.

Reacting to Netanyahu’s words, Wasil Abu Yousif, a Palestinian official, lamented: “We, the Palestinians, are under the Israeli occupation. Israel is taking our land and giving it to Jewish settlers. This is the only reason we don’t have peace here. … Netanyahu is trying to divert the attention from the real reason to a fake one.”

Under heavy pressure from Kerry, Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks in July. As a precondition, the Israelis agreed to release prisoners, and the Palestinians dropped a demand for a halt in Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured areas they claim for a future state.

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