Middle East

Israel's Shimon Peres lies in state at parliament

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Media captionFormer US President Bill Clinton was among those paying their respects to Israel's former PM and President Shimon Peres

Israel's leaders have placed wreaths at the coffin of former Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres as his body lies in state outside parliament.

A ceremony was held in silence for Mr Peres, who has died at the age of 93.

His coffin will remain in front of the parliament building in Jerusalem ahead of his funeral on Friday. Thousands of people are expected to pay tribute.

Mr Peres was one of the last of a generation of politicians present at Israel'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.

Israelis are being given the opportunity to visit Peres' coffin, which is draped in the blue-and-white national flag, until Thursday night.

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

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Media captionShimon Peres, the last of Israel's founding fathers, spoke to the BBC's Lyse Doucet just before his 90th birthday

US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton and some of the world's most powerful figures will attend his funeral.

"A light has gone out," Mr Obama said in a statement about Mr Peres on Wednesday, 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.

Mr Obama has ordered flags at the White House, on all public buildings across America and at US buildings overseas to be flown at half-mast through sunset on Friday "as a mark of respect".

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Image caption The Israeli flag will be flown at half-mast at government buildings in Israel and Israeli diplomatic missions around the world

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".

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Image caption Mr Peres (centre) shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his part in negotiating a peace deal with the Palestinians

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.

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Media captionChemi Peres said his father "worked tirelessly for Israel - from the first day of the state to the last day of his life"

Mr Netanyahu, who on Wednesday tweeted that "today is the first day that the State of Israel has existed without Shimon Peres", also released a video statement in which 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.''

Who was Shimon Peres?

  • Born in 1923 in Wisniew, Poland, now Vishnyeva, Belarus
  • First elected to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in 1959
  • Served in 12 governments, including once as president and twice as prime minister
  • Seen as a hawk in his early years, when he negotiated arms deals for the fledgling nation
  • In 1996 he ordered the so-called Operation Grapes of Wrath on Beirut in retaliation for Lebanese Hezbollah's escalated rocket-fire on northern Israel. The bombing campaign killed and injured hundreds of civilians
  • A member of the government that approved the building of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, though he came to see them as an obstacle to peace
  • But played a key part in reaching the Oslo peace accords, the first deal between Israel and the Palestinians, which said they would "strive to live in peaceful coexistence"

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Media captionShimon Peres in 2013: 'Live in peace side by side'

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