A war hero and seasoned politician, he was known for his tough independence. He was revered by many Israelis, but criticized by others.
Palestinians reviled him for his aggressive military tactics and construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.
He was criticized for the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and held partially responsible for failing to prevent the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in two refugee camps in Beirut that year.
He led a military offensive into Gaza in 2005 in which more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed. But he subsequently unilaterally withdrew Israeli soldiers and settlers from the enclave.
Some residents of Gaza celebrated and handed out candies when Sharon's death was announced.
The spokesman of the Hamas group that gained control of Gaza in 2007 following the Israeli withdrawal, Sami Abu Zuhri, called it a historic moment.
He said the death of Sharon after eight years in a coma is something from God and an example to all tyrants.
A senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization that controls the West Bank, Wasel Abu Yusef, said Sharon tried to uproot the Palestinian nation from its land and prevent the establishment of the Palestinian state.
He said he thinks the Palestinian nation connects the death of Sharon with what he did, the offensives and the crimes against the Palestinian people.
Sharon is to be buried Monday at his home in the Negev desert following a military funeral and a memorial service to be attended by Israeli and foreign dignitaries.