Israel security tight as world leaders gather for Shimon Peres funeral

The flag-draped coffin of former Israeli president Shimon Peres is carried by members of a Knesset guard upon its arrival at the Knesset Plaza, in Jerusalem, Sept 29, 2016.
The flag-draped coffin of former Israeli president Shimon Peres is carried by members of a Knesset guard upon its arrival at the Knesset Plaza, in Jerusalem, Sept 29, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli security forces were on high alert with world leaders set to gather for the funeral of former president Shimon Peres on Friday (Sept 30), deploying thousands of officers and closing off key roads.

US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck and Britain's Prince Charles are among those attending, with most arriving at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport and travelling the 40 minutes by road to Jerusalem.

In a rare visit to Jerusalem, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is also expected to attend the funeral for Nobel Peace Prize winner Peres, who died Wednesday aged 93, two weeks after a major stroke.

 

Related Stories: 

The main road into Jerusalem will be 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 Sept 13.