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Palestinian president Abbas to attend Shimon Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will attend the funeral of Israeli ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, Palestinian officials said on Thursday, in what will be a rare visit to Jerusalem.

world Updated: Sep 30, 2016 08:48 IST
AFP
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas (C) kissing Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) next to Pope Francis after a joint peace prayer at the Vatican in June 2014.
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas (C) kissing Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) next to Pope Francis after a joint peace prayer at the Vatican in June 2014. (AFP File )

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will attend the funeral of Israeli ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, Palestinian officials said on Thursday, in what will be a rare visit to Jerusalem.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, several Palestinian officials confirmed his participation at Friday’s funeral. An Israeli defence ministry unit also said Abbas had asked to coordinate his participation.

He will join leaders from across the world at the funeral, including US President Barack Obama.

Though many Palestinians denounced Peres as a “war criminal” following his death, Abbas hailed him as a “brave” partner for peace and sent his family condolences.

Abbas’s Fatah party dominates the Palestinian Authority, which is in power in the West Bank.

Officials for Fatah’s rival Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, have welcomed Peres’s death and called him “one of the last Israeli founders of occupation”.

Abbas’s attendance at the funeral comes with peace efforts at a complete standstill since April 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for direct negotiations with Abbas, but the Palestinians have pursued an international strategy, saying years of talks with the Israelis have not ended the occupation of the West Bank.

Peres 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.

He died on Wednesday at age 93 after a major stroke.

World leaders to attend funeral

World leaders from US President Barack Obama to Prince Charles are expected in Israel on Friday for the funeral.

Security forces are on high alert at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery, with roads closed and thousands of officers deployed.

Some 70 countries will be represented, with the range of leaders illustrating the respect Peres gained over the years in his transformation from hawk to committed peace advocate.

His death on Wednesday at the age of 93 led to an outpouring of tributes worldwide for Israel’s last remaining founding father.

An estimated 30,000 people filed past his coffin as he lay in state outside parliament in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Former US president Bill Clinton was among those who paid last respects there, appearing moved as he stood in silence before the coffin.

Clinton had helped usher in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s, which resulted in the Nobel Peace Prize for Peres.

After Peres’s death, he called him “a genius with a big heart”.

Obama is expected to arrive on Friday morning and depart after the ceremony.

Around 8,000 police were being deployed for the commemorations.

“We are dealing with an operation on an unprecedented scale,” said police chief Roni Alsheikh.

The last time such an event was held in Israel was the 1995 funeral for Rabin, Peres’s rival in the Labour party but partner in negotiating the Oslo accords.

Peres will be buried next to Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist opposed to the accords.