"Shalom, we had a blast!"
Er, well, at least up to the time that a guard killed himself Tuesday in the middle of a farewell ceremony at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport. The security was tight for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his wife Carla Bruni, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres and other state dignitaries. Police spokesman Shlomi Sagi said the guard died in an apparent suicide, and police denied an attempted assassination attempt on Sarkozy.
However, a conflicting report said the soldier apparently fell from a vantage point he was occupying on a high building, from where he was securing the event, and the bullet that killed him misfired from his M-16 rifle.
According to Israel Radio, the incident happened no more than 200 meters from where Olmert was standing.
Initially, the prime minister's security personnel withdrew their handguns and rushed Olmert and Peres to bullet-proof cars, while Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy were rushed to the French president's plane. The shooting occurred while a military band was playing, and the leaders apparently didn't hear anything.
When the incident ended Olmert and Peres boarded Sarkozy's plane to bid the French president farewell.
It was not immediately clear whether the soldier died from the impact of the fall or from the misfired bullet.
The incident brought the ceremony to an abrupt end.
Some jested that the security guard lost his footing while straining to see Madame Carla, the French first lady, who has had a Jackie Kennedy dazzle on the populace at large. Israel Radio said the soldier who was shot was stationed 100 meters to 200 meters away. Two women soldiers who witnessed the shooting were treated for shock, the radio said.
Israel's volunteer medical service Zaka said the soldier apparently committed suicide. But other media reports said he may have fainted from the heat, discharging his gun accidentally.
There was no immediate word on the soldier's condition.