International desk – Dozens of world leaders have gathered in Israel to join the funeral of Shimon Peres, one of the country’s founding fathers.
Peres, a Nobel laureate politician, died on Wednesday at the age of 93.
The leaders from across the world arrived Israel as the Peres’ state funeral will be held in Jerusalem on Friday.
A massive security operation in preparation has so far led to the “preventative arrests” of several people, according to BBC.
Guests include the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who will visit Israel for the first time since 2010.
The Israeli news website Haaretz reported that the visit comes at the request of Abbas.
As a negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), he was one of the people who signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993, for which Peres won a Nobel Peace Prize the year after, along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.
A senior Palestinian official said 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”.
But a spokesman for Hamas, the more hardline Palestinian group which runs Gaza, called on Abbas to “retract his decision to participate in the funeral of the criminal Shimon Peres”.
Peres’ reputation in the region is complicated by the 1996 shelling of Qana in southern Lebanon that killed more than 100 people who were sheltering in a UN compound.
It happened when he was prime minister. He later said it was a “bitter surprise” to find that several hundred people were in the camp at the time.
Only one country in the Middle East – Jordan – is sending an official representative.
US President Barack Obama will speak at the ceremony, along with Peres’s three children and the prime minister and president of Israel.
Peres left detailed plans for his own funeral. His body has been lying in state outside parliament in Jerusalem.
Israeli police say 8,000 officers have been deployed for the security operation as thousands are expected to attend the funeral.
Israeli police chief Roni Alsheikh said it was “an operation on an unprecedented scale”.
From the UK, Prince Charles, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister Tony Blair will attend.
The funeral is expected to be the largest such event in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.
Peres suffered a stroke two weeks ago and died on Wednesday in a hospital near Tel Aviv.