Sharon's family gathered at the hospital to be with him in his final moments. His sons Omri and and Gilad had been by his side since his condition deteriorated on January 1.     

A state funeral will be organised for Sharon by the Prime Minister's office. Current and former world leaders are expected to come to Israel for the funeral.
    
His body will lie in state at the Knesset before he is buried at his Negev ranch beside his wife Lily, who died in 2000. Sharon's vital organs failed, including his kidneys and his lungs, the Post reported.
    
His blood pressure and heartbeat, which returned to normal on Monday, deteriorated on Thursday. Hospital officials said others in his condition would not have lasted as long as he did.
    
Sharon was revered by many in his country as "Mr Security" for his contributions in all the major wars since Israel's independence. He was reviled in equal measure in the Arab world as the "butcher of Sabra and Shatila".
    
While serving as defence minister in 1982, he masterminded Israel's invasion of Lebanon. During the invasion, Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps - Sabra and Shatila - under Israeli control.
    
He was nevertheless elected prime minister 18 years later, pledging to achieve "security and true peace", and served until his second stroke.

(Agencies)

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