Thousands pay respects to Peres ahead of funeral today

Former US president Bill Clinton standing before the coffin of Mr Shimon Peres yesterday. The former Israeli president's death on Wednesday at the age of 93 triggered an outpouring of grief and tributes that hailed his transformation from hawk to fer
Former US president Bill Clinton standing before the coffin of Mr Shimon Peres yesterday. The former Israeli president's death on Wednesday at the age of 93 triggered an outpouring of grief and tributes that hailed his transformation from hawk to fervent peace advocate.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

JERUSALEM • Israeli leaders, former United States president Bill Clinton and crowds of mourners gathered outside Israel's Parliament yesterday to pay their last respects to Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, whose body was lying in state.

A major security operation was under way ahead of today's funeral, which will be attended by leaders from across the world, including US President Barack Obama and Britain's Prince Charles.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will represent Singapore at the state funeral, according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

In the statement, DPM Teo was quoted as saying: "I had the honour of meeting Mr Peres and am saddened by his passing. Mr Peres saw opportunities for Israel and her neighbours to set aside differences and cooperate. His efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East will inspire future generations. His passing is a great loss to Israel and the global community."

Mr Peres' death on Wednesday at the age of 93 after suffering a major stroke triggered an outpouring of grief and tributes that hailed the former president's transformation from hawk to fervent peace advocate. Mr Obama called him a friend who "never gave up on the possibility of peace".

At a solemn ceremony yesterday morning, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader Isaac Herzog laid wreaths beside Mr Peres' flag-draped coffin at a plaza outside Parliament.

The ceremony was held in silence, with none of the leaders speaking.

Later in the day, Mr Clinton arrived in Israel and travelled directly to view Mr Peres' coffin, appearing moved as he stood silently before it.

The plaza was opened to the public following the visit by the Israeli leaders, and thousands of mourners made their way into the grounds after passing through stringent security checks.

Mr Peres' body was to lie in state until 9pm yesterday (2am Singapore time today), with many thousands expected to pay tribute.

He will be buried in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Thousands pay respects to Peres ahead of funeral today'. Print Edition | Subscribe