Palestinian president to attend funeral of Shimon Peres

Mahmoud Abbas pays tribute to former Israeli leader’s ‘brave’ efforts to make peace

Shimon Peres, who served two terms as Prime Minister and one as President of Israel, dies aged 93. Video: Ruptly

 

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will participate in today’s funeral in Jerusalem of Israel’s elder statesman Shimon Peres – his first visit to Israel in six years.

Although the ceremony at the Mount Herzl cemetery will mark one of the most significant gatherings of world leaders and dignitaries in recent years, it was originally thought that Arab leaders would be conspicuous by their absence.

A Palestinian official said 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”.

Mr Abbas will be joined by senior peace negotiator Saeb Erekat and a number of other Palestinian officials.

Mr Abbas announced his participation after sending a condolence letter to the Peres family expressing his “sadness and sorrow”.

He wrote that “Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and prime minister [Yitzhak] Rabin,” adding that Mr Peres “made unremitting efforts to reach a lasting peace”.

Hamas condemned both the decision by Mr Abbas to attend the funeral and the condolence letter he sent, saying in a statement the Palestinian people should be happy over the death of someone “whose hands are covered in Palestinian blood”.

Hamas declared a “day of rage” for° today, coinciding with the funeral, to mark a year since the start of a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is sending his foreign minister Sameh Shoukry to the funeral and Jordan will be represented by deputy prime minister Jawad Anani.

Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa also paid his respects, writing on his Twitter account: “Rest in peace president Shimon Peres, a man of war and a man of the still elusive peace in the Middle East.”

More than 100 presidents including US president Barack Obama, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other senior officials from several dozen countries will participate in Mr Peres’s funeral.

Representing Ireland will be Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of Israelis from all walks of life paid their last respects to the former president and prime minister who died early on Wednesday, filing past his flag-draped coffin which laid in state in front of the Knesset parliament building.

Former US president Bill Clinton, the first foreign dignitary to arrive, bowed before the casket in silent tribute.

Despite the fact that Mr Peres was for many decades a leader of the left in Israel, the only three Israeli politicians who will eulogise him at the funeral are from the Likud, including prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Mr Obama and members of the Peres family will also speak.

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) described the operation to secure the funeral as “the largest operation of its kind”.

The main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway will be closed to accommodate the large number of VIPs travelling to and from Ben-Gurion airport.