The grand funeral of Shimon Peres – a founding father of modern Israel – is underway attended by world leaders and royalty including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Prince Charles and King Felipe of Spain.
Jerusalem’s biggest security operation for at least two decades is underway with 8,000 police and soldiers lining the streets as the country’s former prime minister is laid to rest on Mount Herzl.
Israeli security forces are on high alert and in a rare visit to Jerusalem, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is also expected to attend the funeral for the statesman who died Wednesday at 93, two weeks after a major stroke.
Mr Peres, who helped set up the post-war Israeli state and was later awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1994 with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for signing the Oslo Accord in the hope of creating an independent Palestinian state and peace in the region.
He will be buried next to his so-called ‘partner in peace’ Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.
Eight thousand officers will be on duty as US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck and Britain’s Prince Charles attending.
Most will be arriving at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and travelling the 40 minutes by road to Jerusalem, and President Obama and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau are already airborne.
The main road into Jerusalem is closed off to the public for the hours immediately before and after the state funeral, which is taking place at the Mount Herzl national cemetery.
Enhanced security will be in place throughout, with 8,000 officers taking part in the operation, police said.
The Shin Bet internal security service will also deploy hundreds of officers, some of them under cover, a statement said.
‘This operation consists of police preparations held in a short time,’ Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement after carrying out an assessment.
‘We are in a sensitive period, including terrorist threats,’ he added, saying officers were on ‘high alert’.
The funeral is taking place on a Friday, part of the weekend in Israel, and ahead of the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, beginning Sunday evening.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, run by Islamist movement Hamas, were also calling for demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the start of the second intifada in 2000.
The Israel Airports Authority said they were expecting 750 takeoffs and landings in a 24-hour period, compared to an average of around 400.
‘When you are doing an operation with these people from oversees, from Prince Charles to Obama, it is a huge operation in security,’ a spokesman said.
Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group think-tank, said security forces had likely been working on plans since Peres had a stroke on September 13.
Thousands of mourners lined the streets to lay wreaths for former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres ahead of his funeral in Jerusalem today.
It is expected to be the largest such gathering in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.
Peres died Wednesday from complications following a stroke. He was 93.
Former US President Bill Clinton has joined Israeli leaders and crowds of mourners paying their respects to former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, whose body is lying in state ahead of his funeral today.
Mr Clinton joined Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader Isaac Herzog lay wreaths beside Peres’s flag-draped coffin at a plaza outside parliament this morning, where it will remain until 9pm.
None of the leaders said a word in the solemn, silent ceremony
After the politicians had paid their respects, several hundred mourners began making their way into the parliamentary grounds after passing through security checks.
A cordon kept them five metres from the coffin.
Peres’s funeral will be attended by world leaders including US President Barack Obama, former US president Bill Clinton, French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck.
Prince Charles will also be in attendance.
It is expected to be the largest such gathering in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.
More than 60 private planes are expected to arrive ahead of the ceremony.
Authorities are putting a major security operation in place ahead of the funeral at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery.
Peres died at a hospital in Tel Aviv on Wednesday aged 93 after suffering a major stroke.
In a career spanning seven decades, he held nearly every major office, serving twice as prime minister and as president from 2007 to 2014.
He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for his role in negotiating the Oslo accords, which envisioned an independent Palestinian state.
US President Barack Obama
US Secretary of State John Kerry
Former US president Bill Clinton
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Prince Charles of Great Britain
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas
French President Francois Hollande
German President Joachim Gauck
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
King Felipe VI of Spain
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte
European Union foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini
European Council President Donald Tusk
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolai Mladenov
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel
Slovenian President Borut Pahor
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic
Polish President Andrzej Duda
Bulgarian President Rosen Asenov Plevneliev
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz