01/05/2006 at 07:40 AM EST
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to a hospital Wednesday for what is being described as a "significant" stroke that has affected movement in his lower body as well as breathing functions, says a hospital official.
By Thursday he was listed in grave condition and said to be fighting for his life following seven hours of emergency surgery to stop widespread bleeding in his brain, according to doctors.
Sharon was taken from his home in the south of Israel on Wednesday to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the hospital's director general, told reporters that the 77-year-old leader had "massive bleeding and was being transferred to an operating theater."
On Dec. 18 Sharon suffered a minor stroke that doctors had said would leave no lasting damage.
CNN reports that power in Israel has already been transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after Sharon was placed under anesthesia and on a respirator.
Sharon's illness came after a full day of meetings, though after the Dec. 18 incident he reportedly had eased up on his heavy work schedule.