Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has been assassinated.

Mr Rabin was shot three times at close range in the stomach and chest by an assailant as he left a peace rally in Tel Aviv earlier on Saturday.

He was taken to hospital in Tel Aviv where he later died.

The gunman, named as Yigal Amir, was rapidly overpowered and arrested.

He is believed to be one of the founders of an illegal Jewish settlement on the West Bank and a member of an extreme right-wing organisation.

The rally at which Mr Rabin was shot was attended by about 100,000 Israelis who back the Rabin government’s peace initiatives with the Palestinians.

“I hope that all of us will have the ability to overcome the tragedy and continue the peace process in all of the Middle East” Yasser Arafat, PLO chairman

Security was tight but police allowed right-wing groups, who oppose any peace deal, to protest nearby.

Israel TV said Yigal Amir, 27, had confessed to shooting the prime minister and had told investigators that he did not regret his actions.

Leaders from around the world are expected to attend Mr Rabin’s funeral which takes place on Monday.

US President Bill Clinton said Yitzhak Rabin had given his life in the pursuit of peace.

The chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, expressed condolences on behalf of the Palestinians.

“I hope that all of us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – will have the ability to overcome the tragedy and continue the peace process in all of the Middle East,” Mr Arafat said.

Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres, has been appointed as acting prime minister after an emergency cabinet meeting.

Site of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Tel-Aviv (Israel)

In Context

Yigal Amir received a life prison sentence for the assassination.

Amir’s brother, Hagai, and Dror Adnani were sentenced to 12 years and seven years respectively for conspiracy.

In 1998 Margalit Har-Shefi, to whom Amir had told his plans, received a nine-month prison term for failing to prevent Mr Rabin’s murder.

Shimon Peres pushed on with Yitzhak Rabin’s efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.

But in an election in 1996 he lost to Binyamin Netanyahu who campaigned against the Rabin-Peres peace programme.