Thousands to pay final respects to Israel’s Shimon Peres

Shimon Sick

Thousands of people are expected to pay their final respects to former Israeli Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres, who died at the age of 93.

His coffin will lie in state in front of the parliament building in Jerusalem throughout Thursday.

US President Barack Obama and some of the world’s most powerful figures will attend his funeral on Friday.

Mr Peres was one of the last of a generation of Israeli politicians present at the nation’s birth in 1948.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role negotiating the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians a year earlier, a prize he shared with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

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

He will receive a state burial at a ceremony on Friday at Mount Herzel Cemetery in Jerusalem.

“A light has gone out,” Mr Obama said in a statement about Mr Peres, calling him a “friend”.

“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves,” he added.

Other world leaders set to attend his funeral include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

It is not clear if the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be present. He sent a letter of condolence to Mr Peres’ family “expressing his sorrow and sadness”.

However, some Palestinians and others across the Middle East were not mourning his passing.

The militant Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas said Mr Peres’s death was the “end of the history of occupation”.

Mr Peres once said the Palestinians were Israel’s “closest neighbours” and might become its “closest friends”.

Once an advocate of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Mr Peres later became a leading political dove. He often spoke of the need for compromise over territorial demands in Palestinian areas.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to pay his respects on Thursday. In a video statement, he expressed “deep sorrow” over the death.

“As a man of peace, he worked until his final days toward reconciling with our neighbours for a better future for our children.”


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