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Israeli president's wife dead at 87

Jan. 20, 2011 6:39 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 20, 2011 6:39 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The wife of Israeli President Shimon Peres died at her home in Tel Aviv on Thursday, her family said in a statement.

Most media gave her age as 87, although no date of birth was listed on official sites.

Interviewed on public radio, her son-in-law, Rafi Walden, said she appeared to have died in her sleep.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm news of the death of our dear Sonia," he said. "She was found lifeless in her bed," he added, saying her body was discovered by a grandson who was paying a visit.

The radio said she had suffered heart problems for the past 20 years and had been hospitalized repeatedly.

A statement by Walden in the name of the family, distributed by the president's office, said she would be buried on Friday morning in a private ceremony at the Ben-Shemen youth village, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, "where she grew up and was educated."

The couple were married in 1945, according to media reports.

The website of The Jerusalem Post said Sonia had declined to join her husband in the Jerusalem residence when he took up the largely ceremonial post in 2007, and that the two had lived apart ever since. She was reported to have been too ill to attend his inauguration.

According to Peres's personal website, the couple have three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The website of the daily Haaretz said that throughout her husband's 60-year political career, including three terms as prime minister, Sonia shunned the spotlight and remained a very private person.
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