|Sharon was taken from his hospital bed, where he has lain in a coma for five years, for a trial period at home [AFP]
Ariel Sharon, Israel's comatose former prime minister, has been moved from hospital to his family's ranch in southern Israel.
Medical teams took Sharon, who is attached to a respirator, from his room in the long-term care unit of a hospital outside Tel Aviv at dawn on Friday.
The 82-year-old has been in a coma since 2006, when he suffered a series of strokes.
There has been no change reported in Sharon's condition, and the move is the result of modern medical thinking that prefers to see long-term patients treated "in the community" rather than in hospitals, Dr. Shlomo Noi, an official from Tel Hashomer Hospital, said.
Security crews erected screens so Sharon would not be visible when he was wheeled out of the hospital building and into a waiting ambulance.
From the hospital, security guards in SUVs escorted the ambulance to Sharon's family ranch.
Doctors say the hope is that he will eventually be able to remain at his house with a medical team to care for him, although he is expected to be returned to hospital for regular checkups.
Sharon, who was for decades one of Israel's most controversial figures, found popularity as prime minister between 2001 and 2006.
He led Israel's military response to the Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada, all but ending it by 2004.
The next year, he reversed his years of hard-line, pro-settlement policies and pulled all of Israel's soldiers and settlers out of the Gaza Strip.
That same year he left the Likud Party, which he helped found, and formed the centrist Kadima, a party designed to be centred largely on his own personality.
But only months later, at the age of 77 and considerably overweight, Sharon suffered a series of strokes that left him comatose.