TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli police officer fatally shot himself in the head at an airport farewell ceremony Tuesday for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, prompting bodyguards to whisk the visiting leader and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to safety, officials said.
A military band was playing at the time of the shooting, and the dignitaries apparently didn't hear anything. Dark-suited security men quickly ushered Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, up the stairs of his plane at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Security guards, their guns drawn, also rushed Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres toward their cars. The incident was over within minutes, and Olmert then boarded the plane to tell Sarkozy what happened, witnesses said.
The police officer, who was on a roof about 100 yards from Sarkozy's plane, fell to the ground after shooting himself, and his body lay on the tarmac afterward, covered by a sheet.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld denied reports that there had been an assassination attempt on Sarkozy, and other police officials said the leaders were never in danger.
"We are currently investigating the circumstances to see whether it was suicide or if he accidentally discharged his weapon," said area police commander Nissim Mor.
"His mission was to secure an area to prevent people from reaching the ceremony."
Sarkozy was ending a three-day visit. Earlier Tuesday, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Sarkozy said Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank would not guarantee its security forever, renewing his call for Israelis and Palestinians to make peace and share the holy city of Jerusalem.
Sarkozy spoke at a news conference alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, following his only meeting with Palestinian leaders during his visit, which was aimed primarily at cementing the improved relations between France and Israel after years of frosty ties.
"You can't protect yourself with a wall, but with politics," Sarkozy said. "What will give Israel security ... is making a democratic Palestinian state."
Israeli government spokesman David Baker said Sarkozy was "a great friend of Israel," adding that "great friends don't always see eye to eye on every issue."