28 Sep 2016

'No alternative to peace': Former Israeli leader dies aged 93

5:42 pm on 28 September 2016

Former Israeli PM and president Shimon Peres has died, aged 93.

Former Israeli PM and president Shimon Peres has died, aged 93.

Former Israeli PM and president Shimon Peres has died in hospital, aged 93. Photo: AFP

He suffered a stroke two weeks ago and his condition improved before a sudden deterioration on Tuesday.

Mr Peres, who was one of the last of a generation of Israeli politicians present at the nation's birth in 1948, served twice as the country's prime minister and once as president.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role negotiating peace accords with the Palestinians a year earlier.

He once said the Palestinians were Israel's "closest neighbours" and might become its "closest friends".

Mr Peres died in a hospital near Tel Aviv early on Wednesday, with his family at his bedside.

He had been in the intensive care unit of the Sheba Medical Centre after suffering a major stroke on 13 September.

US President Barack Obama called Mr Peres his "dear friend" in a statement, and said: "He was guided by a vision of the human dignity and progress that he knew people of goodwill could advance together."

Mr Peres shared his Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was later assassinated, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Barack Obama called Shimon Peres a 'dear friend' in a statement.

Barack Obama called Shimon Peres a "dear friend" in a statement. Photo: AFP

At the start of his long political career, he was put in charge of personnel and arms purchases for the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defence Forces.

He secured a deal with France to supply the new Israeli nation with Mirage jet fighters. He also set up Israel's secret nuclear facility.

He was the defence minister in 1976, when Palestinian hijackers diverted a plane from Israel to Entebbe in Uganda. He oversaw the successful rescue of more than 100 hostages.

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.

He maintained an active public schedule into old age, mostly through his non-governmental Peres Centre for Peace, which promotes closer ties between Israel and the Palestinians.

In 2013 he said: "There is no alternative to peace. There is no sense to go to war."

He retired from his role as president in 2014.

- BBC

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