Ariel Sharon

JERUSALEM – Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip are watching the news regarding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s deteriorating health carefully and will celebrate with Qassam rocket firings at Jewish towns if Sharon dies, terror leaders told WorldNetDaily.

One militant leader threatened the life of Sharon’s temporary replacement, Deputy Minister Ehud Olmert, who was installed as prime minister just hours ago.

“I am ready with my candies and my rockets and praying to Allah that Sharon dies. We have prepared a celebratory barrage of rockets ready to fire into Israel on the occasion of the death of our enemy,” said Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella group of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists responsible for firing hundreds of Qassam rockets and mortars at Jewish towns.

Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar told WND Sharon’s condition “plunges the Israeli political scene into chaos, which could bring about an equal response from the Palestinians.”

Sharon tonight was rushed to the hospital and suffered a “significant stroke” that caused “massive bleeding to the brain,” according to officials at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, which is treating the Israeli leader. Sharon is undergoing emergency surgery after being anesthetized and placed on a breathing machine, one of Sharon’s attending physicians told reporters.

Executive powers have been officially transferred to Olmert. According to Knesset law, Olmert can serve for a maximum 100 days, after which new elections would be held.

Sources close to Sharon told WND the prime minister’s condition is life threatening, and that there was a significant chance he might not survive.

“We are not hopeful,” said a senior Sharon aide.

One senior political leader said he has information Sharon is “clinically dead. He is on life support machines in the operating theater that can keep him alive for an extended period, but doctors are pessimistic he can return to normal functioning.”

Celebrations reportedly are under way in the Gaza Strip, with families distributing sweets and gunmen shooting into the air.

“I personally am waiting to celebrate. I have my fingers crossed,” Abu Abir said. “Sharon was one of our biggest enemies.”

Abu Abir told WND now that Olmert is serving as prime minister “he is moved up on our list of targets. We will target Olmert with a lot of might.”

Al-Zahar said he is hoping Sharon survives.

“Sharon’s new party Kadima was good for us. They made clear in no uncertain terms that part of their platform was more withdrawals from the West Bank and from Jerusalem. His passing from the political scene now places all of that in jeopardy. We don’t know what are the policies of Olmert. Whether he supports giving us the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

Sharon this past summer withdrew Israel’s Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip in spite of fierce opposition from members of his own Likud party. He recently announced he is leaving Likud to start his own “centrist” party, Kadima, prompting new elections that were scheduled for March. Since then, multiple Kadima members have told reporters the new party is looking to change Israel’s borders and may withdraw from parts of the West Bank.

But Israeli commentators across the political spectrum criticized Kadima as a one man party and warned Sharon’s health could negatively impact the party’s chances of winning upcoming elections.

Sharon suffered a stroke last month. Doctors were planning to perform an invasive cardiac procedure tomorrow to close a microscopic hole in the Israeli leaders heart.

His exact condition tonight is unknown.

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