Israel prepares for "unprecedented" funeral for former President Peres

Added On September 29, 2016

 Israeli authorities on Wednesday are preparing for the arrival of dozens of world leaders for the funeral of former President Shimon Peres, who passed away overnight.

Peres, one of the nation's last founding fathers and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, died in a hospital near Tel Aviv early on Wednesday morning after spending two weeks in induced coma following a stroke.

Culture Minister Miri Regev, who was put in charge of the 93-year-old veteran statesman's funeral arrangements, regarded the service as an "unprecedented" event, with an extensive list of international dignitaries.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the list includes U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, Britain's Prince Charles, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.

Contrary to an earlier statement by the ministry, the U.S. presidential candidate Hilary Clinton will not attend the event.

"We are preparing for a complicated event that will require unusual coordination between many elements," Regev said in a statement.

Ofer Lefler, a spokesman for the Israel airports authority, told Channel 2 TV news that about 100 airplanes are expected to arrive in Israel in the next two days.

In a notice sent to Xinhua, the airports authority said it was preparing new temporary parking slots for the airplanes at the international Ben Gurion Airport.

"This morning, the authority activated a special command to allow special operation by air traffic division and a general calling-up of all of the authority's workers," the statement read.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the security arrengments for the events were "very complexed." She said "thousands" of policemen, border police, soldiers and Shin Bet security service officers will secure the events.

The ceremonies officially started on Wednesday afternoon in the Knesset (parliament,) where the Israeli flag was lowered at half-mast. Inside the Knesset building, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein lighted a memorial candle in commemoration of Peres and read a chapter of Psalms.

On Thursday morning, the coffin of Pere will lie at the central Knesset plaza to allow members of the public to pay their last respect.

The funeral will be held on Friday morning at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, a government notice said.

He will be buried next to the assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace together with Peres and the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. They won the prize for the short-lived peace accords signed in 1993.

Many world leaders eulogized Peres. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a letter to Peres' family that Peres had exerted unremitting efforts to make peace until the last moment of his life.

Abbas said Peres was a partner in making the peace of the brave with late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the State of Israel, saying he "admired his courage and patriotism."

Obama mourned Peres, calling him a friend whose moral imagination "changed the course of human history."

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said Peres was "guided by a vision of the human dignity and progress that he knew people of goodwill could advance together."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the nation grieves the passing of our dear and beloved Shimon Peres." Netanyahu said Peres "devoted his life to our nation and to the pursuit of peace. He set his gaze on the future. He did so much to protect our people."

However, in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his Islamic movement is glad about the news of Peres' death.

"We are so happy about the news of former Israeli president's death. It is not only us, but all the Palestinian people are happy about the news of Peres' death," he said. "This man committed crimes and shed the blood of our people."

Abu Zuhri, whose movement is classified as a terrorist group and rejects to recognize Israel and the peace process, said: "Peres was the last founder of this entity (Israel) and we believe it is a start of a new stage of the Israeli occupation's weakness."

Peres was born as Szymon Perski in 1923 in a Polish town now known as Vishnyeva in Belarus. In 1934, he and his family immigrated to Israel, then known as Palestine.

His nearly 70-year political career covered almost every role in the political arena -- he served twice as prime minister. He also served as foreign minister, defense minister, finance minister, chairman of the Labor Party, and leader of the opposition in the parliament.

Peres served as Israel's ninth president between 2007 and 2014.

He played a vital role in establishing Israel's military and aviation industries and set paths for exporting Israeli weapons and security equipment throughout the world.