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News > World

Israel's Shimon Peres, Qana Massacre Architect, Suffers Stroke

  • Israel's President Shimon Peres speaks to the media during a news conference in the southern town of Sderot July 6, 2014.

    Israel's President Shimon Peres speaks to the media during a news conference in the southern town of Sderot July 6, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 September 2016

The former president and prime minister of Israel, known for the 1993 peace treaty with Palestinians, had a darker history than meets the eye.

One of Israel’s last living founders and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres suffered a stroke Tuesday and was put in a medically induced coma, hospital officials said.

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"I remain optimistic. I believe, I pray and hope for the best, however this in not an easy time," Peres' son, Chemi, told reporters gathered outside Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. "It seems we will have to make decisions going forward, though not at the moment."

The hospital's director told reporters that Peres had "suffered from a major stroke with a component of bleeding."

In a career spanning nearly seven decades, Peres, 93, served in a dozen cabinets and twice as a Labour Party prime minister, even though he never won a general election outright in five tries from 1977 to 1996. He later served as president, a largely ceremonial role in Israel, from 2007-2014, before leaving politics.

Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israel's late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for a 1993 interim peace deal that they and their successors failed to turn into a durable treaty.

While he is largely known as a “dove” in a country founded on ethnic cleansing, Peres in fact oversaw one of Israel’s ugliest war crimes in its history.

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In April 1996, as he was facing a major right-wing backlash at home over his peace deal with the Palestinians, and in the middle of an election campaign, he unleashed “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” causing 400,000 Lebanese to flee their homes, with almost 800 of them fleeing to a U.N. base in Qana, South Lebanon.

In order to challenge the “dove” label and appease the right, Peres did not stop there and ordered the army to strike the Qana shelter, killing 102 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly.

“In my opinion," Peres said at the time, "everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way. I am at peace.” However, the United Nations and human rights organizations debunked his government’s claim that the strike against the camp was not intentional.

Before converting from a pro-war politicon to a peace-loving dove in 1977, a change of heart he said was a result of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel and subsequent peace treaty with Tel Aviv, Peres said Israel had the right to keep land gained during war, such as the Syrian Golan Heights, in contravention of international law.

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