Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died at the age of 85.

Sharon, who had been in a persistent vegetative state since 2006 after suffering a stroke, passed away on Saturday (11Jan14) with his family by his side.

His son Gilad Sharon confirmed the news, saying, "He has gone. He went when he decided to go."

A spokesman for the Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv, where Sharon was being cared for, revealed the former leader died from heart failure.

Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army from 1948 and served as an officer and a paratrooper, taking part in countless battles including the 1948 War of Independence, and becoming a hero for many Israelis.

After retiring from the military, he went into politics with the Likud party and held several governmental posts before becoming leader of the party in 2000.

He served as Israel's 11th Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, but fell into a coma after suffering a stroke. He never regained full consciousness.