TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Close relatives of former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres rushed to his hospital bedside on Tuesday amid media reports that his condition had deteriorated and he was close to death.
Peres, 93, was hospitalized following a major stroke two weeks ago and his condition was improving before he suffered a severe setback on Tuesday, according to Israeli media.
A hospital spokeswoman said his condition "was and remains serious, there is a real threat to his life. He arrived two weeks ago when we were more optimistic but over time there has been no improvement, so naturally there is less optimism".
Peres, Israel's most eminent elder statesman, was part of almost every major development from the country's founding in 1948. In a career spanning nearly 70 years, he served in a dozen cabinets and was twice a Labour prime minister.
He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the late former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for reaching, in 1993, an interim peace deal which never hardened into a lasting treaty.
Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli ultra-nationalist who opposed the interim accords, and it was Peres who took over as prime minister after Rabin's death.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party visited Peres's bedside on Tuesday and, close to tears, told reporters afterwards: "We heard (from the doctors) of his serious and deteriorating condition and we are all praying. We are all used to seeing an active and intense Shimon..."
Family members seen arrived to the hospital declined to comment on Peres's condition.
(Reporting by Elana Ringler; writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Mark Heinrich)