Palestinians living in Gaza handed out sweets to children as a gesture of celebration when news broke that former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, had died at the age of 85 after eight years in coma.
He was a giant of Israel’s military and political scene, but courted controversy throughout his long career.
Responding to news of Sharon’s death, a 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”.
Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist militant rulers since 2007, condemned him as a tyrant and said his death marked the “disappearance of a criminal whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood”.
News that Mr Sharon died on Saturday afternoon of heart failure was confirmed by the head of the Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv.
President Shimon Peres said he had built Israel. Mr Peres, who joined a unity government with Mr Sharon in 2001, said he was “an exceptional man and an exceptional commander who moved his people and loved them and the people loved him”.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke of a leader “who dedicated his life to the State of Israel”.
The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen said he had shaped the current state of the West Bank and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians more than any other Israeli politician in recent years.
Ariel Sharon fought in Israel’s war of independence in 1948, and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 and according to a BBC correspondent, it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role.
He became PM in 2001 and in 2005 completed a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, months before suffering 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 later visited his mother’s grave.
Ariel Sharon died during the Jewish Sabbath and the BBC’s Yolande Knell said a ministerial committee would meet in the coming hours to decide what steps to take.
Mr Sharon’s body will lie in state at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Sunday before a big state funeral ceremony is held there on Monday morning. A few hours later he will be buried in a private ceremony at his ranch in the Negev desert.
As prime minister, Mr Sharon presided over some of the most turbulent times in Israeli-Palestinian history, a Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000 and a subsequent tough Israeli military response.
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 career Mr Sharon had “taken the choice to turn to dialogue with the Palestinians”.
Ex-US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, a former secretary of state, said he “gave his life to Israel” and it was an honour to “work with him, argue with him and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country”.