Ariel Sharon was in a critical but stable condition last night after surgeons removed a decayed section of the comatose prime minister's large intestine, the hospital treating him said.
The four-hour operation on Saturday was successful, but Mr Sharon's chances of recovering from a massive stroke on January 4 have dimmed, doctors said.
Israelis closely followed their 77-year-old leader's latest ordeal, with TV stations repeatedly breaking into programming for updates, but the country has already come to terms with his departure from politics.
Mr Sharon's political heir, Ehud Olmert, quickly took the reins as acting prime minister, and appears poised to lead Mr Sharon's centrist Kadima party to victory in the March 28 elections.
Mr Sharon was rushed to surgery on Saturday morning after doctors conducted a scan involving the insertion of a small camera through the abdominal wall.
Surgeons detected necrotic - or dead - tissue in the bowels and removed a third of the large intestine, said Dr Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of the Hadassah hospital. It was his seventh operation since suffering the stroke. Dr Mor-Yosef said yesterday that Mr Sharon's main medical problem continued to be the coma. Asked whether Mr Sharon could come out of the coma, Dr Mor-Yosef said: "All possibilities remain open, but with each passing day, the chances are lower," reports Guardian Unlimited.