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Obituaries

Israeli ex-president Shimon Peres, hawk-turned-dove who would share the Nobel Peace Prize, dies at 93

The cause of death was complications from a massive stroke earlier in the month

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 11:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 2:40pm

Israeli ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres died on Wednesday, his personal doctor said, some two weeks after suffering a major stroke.

The 93-year-old died in his sleep at around 3:00 am (8 am Hong Kong time), Rafi Walden, who is also Peres’s son-in-law, said.

He died surrounded by family members, a source close to Peres said.

Peres had been in hospital near Tel Aviv since September 13, when he was admitted feeling unwell and suffered the stroke with internal bleeding.

Israel has been on edge over the health of its last remaining founding father, who had been under sedation and respiratory support in intensive care.

Peres held nearly every major office in the country, serving twice as prime minister and also as president, a mostly ceremonial role, from 2007 to 2014.

He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for his role in negotiating the Oslo Accords, which envisioned an independent Palestinian state.

The former hawk turned dove was widely respected both in Israel and abroad.

In 2014 the Israeli president started a three-day visit to China in quintessential Chinese style: by opening a Sina Weibo account.

“Shalom, my Chinese friends,” Peres said in his first post on the massively popular platform, where he quickly garnered nearly 50,000 followers.

After suffering the stroke, he received an outpouring of support from across the world, including from Pope Francis, US President Barack Obama, the Clinton family, Donald Trump, Britain’s ex-premier Tony Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called him “tireless in seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians”

There had been signs of improvement last week.

On September 18, Peres’s office said doctors planned to gradually reduce his sedation and respiratory support to judge his response.

His personal physician, Walden had said at the time that Peres had seen “very slow, moderate improvement”.

But on Tuesday, a source close to Peres said his condition had taken a downturn and he was “fighting for his life”. Family members arrived at the hospital.

In January, Peres was hospitalised twice because of heart trouble.

In the first case, the hospital said he had suffered a “mild cardiac event” and underwent catheterisation to widen an artery.

He was rushed to hospital a second time just days later with chest pains and an irregular heartbeat.

Peres had sought to maintain an active schedule despite his age, particularly through events related to his Peres Centre for Peace.

When leaving hospital on January 19, Peres said he was keen to get back to work.

“I’m so happy to return to work, that was the whole purpose of this operation,” he said.

In March, he met British supermodel Naomi Campbell at his Peres Centre for Peace during an event linked to International Women’s Day. On the same day, he met visiting US Vice President Joe Biden.

Born in Poland in 1923, Peres emigrated to what was then British-mandated Palestine when he was 11.

He joined the Zionist struggle and met David Ben-Gurion, who would become his mentor and Israel’s first prime minister.

Peres became director general of the nascent defence ministry at just 29 years old.

Beyond his accomplishments in the public eye, he was also seen as a driving force in the development of Israel’s undeclared nuclear programme.

Peres once confided that the secret to his longevity was daily exercise, eating little and drinking one or two glasses of good wine.