Politicians in the United States and Europe have sent their best wishes to gravely-ill Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip there were few tears shed for the man who was planning to run for a third term in office.“As a human being I am sorry for him, I wish him health but at the same time I feel it is weird because this is what happened to Arafat,” one Palestinian woman remarked. Sharon’s old foe Yasser Arafat died in November 2004 after a brain haemorrhage. Palestinian leaders are aware the absence of Sharon from Israel’s political map could bring about dramatic changes in the region. Politician Hannan Ashwari said: “It’s clear that Israeli politics will now undergo a period of hardline policies in the context of elections because during elections the rhetoric will be extremely heightened.” Battered by Sharon’s harsh measures to fight the five-year-old uprising, Palestinian militant factions were not sorry about the news. A spokesman from Hamas, which does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, delivered a hard-hitting statement attacking Sharon and describing him as a criminal.