By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM | Fri Nov 12, 2010 1:58am EST
(Reuters) - Israel's comatose former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was moved back to his desert ranch on Friday, leaving the secure hospital ward that had been his home for almost five years, officials said.
Sharon, 82, will continue to receive treatment at Sycamore Farm, where as premier he would often retreat with aides to plan strategies such as Israel's 2002 offensive in the Palestinian West Bank and the surprise 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Felled by a massive stroke in January 2006, ex-general Sharon left an often jittery Jewish state that has fought two wars while charting an uncertain course in U.S.-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians.
"Today, in 2010, the aspiration of any patient, our aspiration in the hospital, is to ensure that any chronic patient, when possible, is with his community, at home," said Prof Shlomo Noy, director of rehabilitation at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, where Sharon had been receiving care.
Asked whether there any chance of Sharon recovering -- or even returning to public life, as some of his loyalists envisage -- Novy told Israel's Army Radio: "Clearly what's behind this (move home) is the hope that his situation will get better.
"But the improvements that we talk about in such situations are not great improvements, not dramatic improvements."
After being stabilized for brain hemorrhage, Sharon settled into what medical staff and the few friends allowed to visit describe as a limbo state -- uncommunicative but apparently responding to basic stimuli like television.
He is said to have kept much of the fat that made him a favorite of satires and gave girth to his nickname "bulldozer."
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