Shimon Peres funeral: World leaders gather in Israel

Dozens of world leaders are gathering in Israel to pay tributes to Shimon Peres, one of the country’s founding fathers, who died on Wednesday aged 93.

A funeral procession is en route to the national cemetery in Jerusalem, where Mr Peres will be laid to rest.
A security crackdown ahead of the ceremony has led to the “preventative arrests” of several people.

Guests include the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who will visit Israel for the first time since 2010.

As a negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), he was one of the people who signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993, for which Mr Peres won a Nobel Peace Prize the year after, along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.

A senior Palestinian official told the Associated Press news agency that Mr Abbas wanted to “send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres”.

But a spokesman for Hamas, the more hardline Palestinian group which runs Gaza, called on Mr Abbas to “retract his decision to participate in the funeral of the criminal Shimon Peres”.
Mr Peres’ reputation in the region is complicated by the 1996 shelling of Qana in southern Lebanon that killed more than 100 people who were sheltering in a UN compound.

It happened when, as prime minister, he ordered an offensive against a wave of rocket-fire by the militant Hezbollah movement. He later said it was a “bitter surprise” to find that several hundred people were in the camp at the time.

Security operation

Mr Peres’ coffin is currently being escorted by military honour guard from the parliament building in Jerusalem to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, where he will be laid to rest alongside many of the country’s former leaders.

Jordan and Egypt – the only two Arab countries to have signed peace deals with Israel – are both sending official representatives to attend the ceremony.

US President Barack Obama will speak at the ceremony, along with Mr Peres’s three children and the prime minister and president of Israel.

Mr Peres left detailed plans for his own funeral. His body has been lying in state outside parliament in Jerusalem.

Israeli police say 8,000 officers have been deployed for the security operation as thousands are expected to attend the funeral.
Israeli police chief Roni Alsheikh said it was “an operation on an unprecedented scale”.

From the UK, Prince Charles, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister Tony Blair will attend.

The funeral is expected to be the largest such event in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.

Mr Peres suffered a stroke two weeks ago and died on Wednesday, aged 93, in a hospital near Tel Aviv.


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