Fearing disturbances, police nab extremists ahead of Peres funeral
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Fearing disturbances, police nab extremists ahead of Peres funeral

Several Jews and Arabs detained day before ceremony for late president Shimon Peres, though no specific threat mentioned; security upped for Abbas

Police chief Roni Alsheich, second left, pays his respects by the coffin of Shimon Peres at the Knesset on September 29, 2016.  (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)
Police chief Roni Alsheich, second left, pays his respects by the coffin of Shimon Peres at the Knesset on September 29, 2016. (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Police rounded up several people known for extremist affiliations and shut the state funeral of former president Shimon Peres to the public as they sought to secure the nearly unprecedented Friday ceremony that will see dozens of world leaders in attendance.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich told journalists on Thursday that as part of the preparations for one of the largest security operations in Israeli history, police detained several individuals who may pose a threat to the funeral or to visiting dignitaries.

The suspects include both right-wing extremist Jews and Arabs, he said.

Alsheich told a press conference that police had put several suspects who they thought could threaten the event in preventative detention, including individuals involved in “terror, provocation or threats against individuals.”

He did not say how many people had been detained, and added there was no specific threat.

US President Barack Obama, former US president Bill Clinton, the United Kingdom’s Prince Charles, French President Francois Hollande, and German President Joachim Gauck will be among those attending the funeral. Also attending will be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Police carried out similar preventative raids against right-wing extremist Jews before the Jerusalem Gay pride march in July, following a deadly stabbing at the event the year before.

Police also said they would keep the public from reaching the funeral at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery.

The Knesset and Peres’s family made the decision to shut the funeral to the public, police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said.

The Shin Bet security service earlier said that it had been tasked with providing personal protection to over 60 dignitaries, including over a dozen heads of state.

Police and other emergency personnel have spent the last two days gearing up for the ceremony, thought to be the largest draw of foreign leaders to the country since the 1995 funeral of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Some 8,000 police officers will take part in providing the security for the event, and additional firefighters and rescue personnel have also been put on alert, the police said.

In addition roads around the cemetery will be closed Friday morning, as will the Route 1 highway in and out of Jerusalem.

“This will be the police’s most complex operation, and it has prepared for it in a short amount of time. I was impressed that the preparations were professional and that the level of preparedness is so high. However, we are still in a sensitive time period, which has included ‘lone wolf’ attacks and incitement on social networks. Therefore, the police must be prepared for possible of responding to any scenario, and the public is called upon to be vigilant,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday in a meeting with police.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report

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