World leaders and dignitaries joined Israelis in Jerusalem on Friday for the funeral of the country's former President Shimon Peres.

US President Barack Obama, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck and scores of other world leaders are attending the funeral. 

Mr Peres died aged 93 in the early hours of Wednesday, two weeks after he suffered a stroke.

Mr Obama, who awarded Mr Peres the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, is one of the speakers at the ceremony. He landed in Israel on Friday morning.

After the Israeli statesman died, Mr Obama described him as a friend and the “essence of Israel itself,” saying: “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever”.

Prime Minister Theresa May joined Mr Obama in calling Mr Peres a “courageous and visionary statesman” who “worked relentlessly for peace and never lost hope that this would one day be achievable”.

'Farewell to Our Beloved Father' - Shimon Peres' Son

Police shut roads in central Jerusalem ahead of the funeral. It is expected to be Israel's largest since that of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was killed by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.

During his 66-year-long political career, Mr Peres jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for brokering the historic Oslo interim peace accords with the Palestinian leadership.

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Former US president, Bill Clinton pays his respect in front of the coffin of former Israeli president Shimon Peres (AFP/Getty Images)

Since then, the peace process has collapsed, but Mr Peres continued to work on programmes promoting Israeli-Arab co-existence after he retired from politics in 2014.

Mr Abbas said that despite the breakdown in peace efforts, he decided to attend to honor Peres' longtime commitment to peace. He said Mr Peres was “a partner in making the peace of the brave”.

Mr Peres was hospitalised following a stroke two weeks ago which led to bleeding in his brain. He was sedated and on life support before he condition suddenly worsened on Wednesday.

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Tributes to Shimon Peres in Jerusalem (REUTERS)

The Peres family physician said the statesman passed away without suffering.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mr Peres despite their deep ideological differences, expressing “deep personal grief at the passing of the beloved of the nation”.

And the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, described him as a “true giant amongst men”.

“There will be countless tributes to Shimon Peres over the coming days, but I fear that few, if any, will adequately capture the palpable sense of collective grief felt across the world, nor do justice to the memory of a true giant amongst men,” Mr Mirvis said.

Additional reporting from Associated Press

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