Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been comatose since suffering a massive stroke in January, has been opening his eyes for several hours at a time, according to a report published Wednesday in the Yediot Ahronot daily.

Sharon, 78, was moved Sunday from Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital to a long-term care facility at Tel Aviv's Sheba Medical Center.

According to the report, family friends said Sharon opens his eyes for one to three hours at a time. Apparently he does not move his eyeballs and stares vacantly ahead.

A spokeswoman for Sheba refused to confirm the report.

CountryWatch: Israel

Experts have said that patients in a comatose state often open their eyes, and it does not indicate any level of consciousness.

Israeli media reported that Sheba will try to take Sharon off a respirator and make other efforts to improve his condition.

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

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 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.