Shin Bet prepares for 'largest operation in unit's history'
With dozens of VIPs coming to Israel and hundreds of thousands coming to mourn at Peres's funeral on Friday, intense preparations are underway to protect all those who are coming to pay their respects to the former president; King David hotel is evicting guests to make room for dignitaries.
They will not only have to protect the hundreds of thousands of mourners coming to the funeral—including foreign heads of state and government ministers—but will also have to coordinate security arrangements with foreign security agencies who secure their leaders abroad.
The Shin Bet will be activating its VIP Protection Unit to defend the funeral. The event is a desirable target for terrorists due to the expected international coverage and the large amount of high ranking foreign officials who will be in attendance.
"This will be a very complex operation," the Shin Bet said, "with different Shin Bet units taking part to secure the event, which will both provide a physical protective seal around the mourners, along with using advanced technological means to protect against terror attacks."
Hundreds of police officers will also take part in the operation to secure Shimon Peres's funeral, and will include both uniformed and plain clothes officers who will be able to blend into the crowd. They are beginning their operations and cooperation with foreign security agencies now, and will continue to do so until after the funeral ends.
Lior Akerman, former deputy head of the Shin Bet and intelligence and terrorism expert, explained, "The Shin Bet is primarily responsible for personal protection such as the prime minister, president, and Israeli government ministers. It is also responsible for the protection other heads of states, in cooperation with foreign security services and their embassies. The Shin Bet is aware of all security arrangements, down to the exact number of body guards, and who is carrying a weapon."
The two main scenarios that the security establishment is on guard against are terrorist attacks and so-called lone wolf attacks, who may attempt to take advantage of the situation and harm an Israeli or foreign diplomat.
"We've had to evict guests… turn into a fortress"
From the moment that Peres's death was announced on Wednesday morning, and it became clear that a long list of international VIPs and world leaders would be arriving for the funeral the world famous King David Hotel in Jerusalem swiftly went into high gear to prepare the hotel for the incoming guests.
Approximately 30 of the VIPs will be staying at the hotel with their entourages.
The King David Hotel CEO Haim Shkedi knew from the moment Peres fell ill that he would have to begin preparations for his high profile guests to arrive for the funeral.
"The good thing about us is that we have a lot of experience dealing with these events—both sad events such as the funeral for Yitzhak Rabin, and also happier occasions," Shkedi said.
"We are very skilled in putting together the technical preparations. The most difficult thing is determining who we will be allowing to stay with us and who we will be turning away, along with having to evict the current occupants of the rooms due to the arrival of these various heads of state."
"The hotel is going to turn into a fortress," Shkedi added. "There will be no parking at the hotel, there will be restricted access to certain areas inside the building, and there will be restricted access for deliveries and workers. All of this will take place under the watchful eyes of the Shin Bet and the security services for each head of state."
However, he clarified that "this is a situation whereby everyone is cooperating with each other, and there is no negative tension between anyone, including the people who had to be evicted from the hotel to make room for the foreign dignitaries. Most of them understand the situation. It also helps that this is Shimon Peres, a man whom everyone appreciated and admired. Everyone who cooperated with us in leaving the hotel said that they are doing it for Peres. It was really touching."