The former Israeli prime minister arrived at the Sheba rehabilitation centre, on the outskirts of Israel's commercial capital, on Sunday around an hour after he was driven out in an ambulance from the Hadassah, where he had been in a coma since he suffered the stroke on January 4.
  
He was accompanied by members of his family and a security convoy, as well as paramedics from the Hadassah.
  
Professor Zeev Rothstein, director of the Sheba centre, said doctors would try to help him come off the artificial respiration, but he acknowledged that the prospects of Sharon regaining consciousness were "extremely thin."
  
"We have arranged a course of treatment over the months ahead which will give him the best possible chance," Rothstein told reporters.

"For a man of his age who is in a coma and under artificial respiration, each stage of his treatment can put his life in danger - that's why it is a process which takes time."

Sharon underwent extensive brain surgery after massive bleeding in his brain on January 4. He has had several operations since then.

The last procedure, in April, was to reattach a part of his skull, removed during the emergency surgery to reduce pressure on his brain. The reattachment was described as a necessary step before transferring Sharon to a long-term care facility.

Prospects

Israeli security forces escort an
ambulance carrying Sharon

Shortly after the stroke, experts said Sharon's inability to regain consciousness meant his chances for recovery were slim. Now that nearly five months have passed, his chances are even lower.

He was declared "permanently incapacitated" in April.

Sharon was at the height of his political powers when he was felled by the stroke. He had created a new political party, Kadima, which held a commanding lead heading into March 28 elections.

His closest political ally, Ehud Olmert, replaced Sharon as prime minister and Kadima's head. Olmert led the party to victory in the election, but it received fewer seats in the party than Sharon had been expected to win.

Sharon, a controversial character who championed the settlers' movement only to order their removal from the occupied Gaza Strip, wanted to secure Israel's borders and annex some of the Palestinian territories seized in 1967.

He is widely regarded as war hero in Israel.

Palestinians despise Sharon for the brutality he has shown since he commanded a deadly raid on the West Bank village of Qibya in 1953, allowed for the massacres of refugees in Lebanon's Shabra and Shatila camps and cracked down on their second uprising.