Ariel Sharon's life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved from the moment of its birth.
He fought in its war of independence in 1948 and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role.
He was always a controversial figure in Israeli politics - certainly not universally loved - but in mourning his passing, Israelis are marking the loss of one of the few public figures left whose career stretched back to the earliest days of their state.
But leading Palestinian political figure Mustafa Barghouti said while no-one should gloat at his death, Mr Sharon had taken "a path of war and aggression" and had left "no good memories with Palestinians".
The BBC's Kevin Connolly, in Jerusalem, says Ariel Sharon's life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved.
He fought in Israel's war of independence in 1948, and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role, our correspondent says.
The 85-year-old became PM in 2001 and in 2005 completed a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, barely a year before he suffered a massive stroke.
His health had declined for the past week and a half, Sheba Medical Centre Director Professor Shlomo Noy told reporters.
"Over the past week he struggled with surprising strength and determination against the deterioration in his condition. Today he departed peacefully with his loving family at his side."
One of his two sons, Gilad Sharon, said outside the hospital: "He has gone. He went when he decided to go."
He had been in a persistent vegetative state since a stroke in 2006 and Professor Noy said he had suffered "ups and downs" throughout that period.
As prime minister, Mr Sharon presided over some of the most turbulent times in Israeli-Palestinian history, a Palestinian uprising that erupted after peace talks collapsed in 2000 and a subsequent tough Israeli military response.
After playing an important part in the 1973 war, Ariel Sharon became a defence adviser to the government
To many Israelis, he was a heroic warrior, having led decisive campaigns in the 1967 and 1973 wars.
But Palestinians remember him for Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, during which a massacre of civilians was carried out by Christian Phalangist militia in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Ariel Sharon was found personally responsible by an Israeli inquiry for allowing the massacre to happen.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Israel had lost "one of the most significant figures" in its history while French President Francois Hollande said after a long military and military career Mr Sharon had "taken the choice to turn to dialogue with the Palestinians".