Ariel Sharon's former aide says the comatose ex-Israeli premier will be moved to his ranch in Israel's south.

Sharon, one of Israel's most popular and controversial figures, has been in the long-term care unit of Tel Hashomer Hospital outside Tel Aviv since suffering a series of strokes in 2006.

The aide, Raanan Gissin, told The Associated Press, "the plan is by the end of the week for him to return home."

Sharon, now 82, was stricken months after completing Israel's unilateral 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and setting up the centrist Kadima Party, after failing to get backing from his hawkish Likud for the pullout.

Those steps represented a turnaround for Sharon, who made his name as a hard-line ex-general.