Yasser Arafat Dying?

Arafat ‘Very Sick,’ Medics Arrive (Reuters)

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s health worsened sharply on Wednesday and an ambulance rushed to his beleaguered West Bank headquarters, officials, medics and witnesses said. The veteran leader was “very, very sick,” a Palestinian cabinet minister told Reuters, speaking anonymously. A senior Palestinian official denied a report on Israel Radio that Arafat, 75, had lost consciousness. “His health has deteriorated and there are plans to move him to the hospital in Ramallah,” a medical source told Reuters. Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudeineh said medical teams from Egypt and Jordan were expected on Thursday: “The president needs more time to rest because of exhaustion,” Abu Rudeineh told reporters.

Israel radio said Israel had agreed to let Arafat go to a nearby hospital in Ramallah if necessary and allow Jordanian doctors to come and examine him. It said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had renewed permission he offered earlier this week.

There aren’t too many people I wish dead but Arafat makes the cut. It’s hard to imagine that the world wouldn’t be better off without him in it.

Update (2008): It must be getting serious. The press is already dusting off the Arafat obituary. Apparently, contrary to my belief that he was a mass murdering scumbag, he was simply a dynamic leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize. I stand corrected.

Summary: Key events in Arafat’s life
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer/AP)

Key dates in Yasser Arafat’s life:

-Aug. 4, 1929: Born in Cairo, Egypt, fifth child of Palestinian merchant Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini.

-1933: Mother Zahwa dies. Arafat and infant brother Fathi sent to Jerusalem to live with uncle.

-1949: Moves back to Cairo; forms Palestinian Students’ League.

-August 1956: Attends international student congress in Prague, Czechoslovakia, secures membership for Palestine. For first time, wears Palestinian headdress, or keffiyeh, that becomes his trademark.

-Jan. 1, 1965: Forms Fatah guerrilla movement; two days later attempts first attack on Israel, abortive bombing of water canal in Galilee.

-March 21, 1968: Israeli army attack on PLO base at Karameh, Jordan, inflicts heavy losses, but seen as victory for Arafat and his group; thousands join PLO.

-Feb. 4, 1969: Arafat takes over PLO chairmanship, transforms it into dynamic force that makes Palestinian cause known worldwide.

-Nov. 13, 1974: Arafat addresses U.N. General Assembly.

-June 6, 1982: Israel invades Lebanon to crush PLO, forcing Arafat and loyalists to flee Beirut.

-Oct. 1, 1985: Arafat narrowly escapes death in Israeli air raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia.

-April 16, 1988: Khalil al-Wazir, Arafat’s military commander, also known as Abu Jihad, assassinated in Tunis; Israel blamed.

-Dec. 12, 1988: Arafat accepts Israel’s right to exist, renounces terrorism.

-Aug. 2, 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait; Arafat supports Saddam Hussein, resulting in PLO’s isolation.

-November 1991: Arafat secretly marries 28-year-old secretary, Suha Tawil, in Tunis. Their daughter Zahwa born July 24, 1995, in Paris.

-April 7, 1992: Arafat rescued after plane crash lands in Libyan desert during sandstorm, killing two pilots and engineer and leaving Arafat bruised and shaken.

-Sept. 13, 1993: Israel and PLO sign accord on Palestinian autonomy in Oslo, Norway, giving Arafat control of most of Gaza Strip and 27 percent of West Bank. Arafat shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on White House lawn.

-July 1, 1994: Returning from exile, a triumphant Arafat sets foot on Palestinian soil for the first time in 26 years.

-Dec. 10, 1994: Arafat wins Nobel Peace Prize, along with Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

-Nov. 4, 1995: Ultranationalist Jew assassinates Rabin at peace rally in Tel Aviv, Israel.

-Nov. 9, 1995: Arafat makes first visit to Israel in secret trip to offer condolences to Rabin’s widow.

-Jan. 20, 1996: Arafat elected president of Palestinian Authority in first Palestinian elections.

-Jan. 15, 1997: Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sign accord on Israeli pullout from 80 percent of West Bank city of Hebron.

-Oct. 23, 1998: Israeli and Palestinian leaders meeting at Wye River, Md., agree on interim land-for-peace deal on West Bank.

-July 11, 2000: Seeking final peace deal, President Clinton convenes “Camp David II” and sequesters Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Arafat for nine days. Afterward, White House declares summit failure.

-Sept. 28, 2000: Israel’s then opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, visits Jerusalem shrine holy to Jews and Muslims, leading to clashes that escalate into second Palestinian uprising.

-Dec. 3, 2001: After three suicide bombings, Israel destroys Arafat’s three helicopters in Gaza City, grounding him and effectively confining him to West Bank town of Ramallah.

-Jan. 18, 2002: Two Israeli tanks and armored personnel carrier park outside Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters, confining him to office complex after Palestinian gunman bursts into banquet hall and kills six Israelis. In three ensuing military sieges, compound’s walls torn down, along with most buildings, except for Arafat’s three-story tan stucco office.

-March 27, 2002: Palestinian suicide bomber kills 29 people at Passover holiday meal at Park Hotel in Netanya, prompting Israeli incursion into West Bank.

-March 29, 2002: Israeli Cabinet declares Arafat an “enemy.” Troops seize Ramallah, including most of Arafat’s headquarters compound, further pinning in once globe-trotting leader.

-April 2, 2002: Arafat, responding to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s offer of permanent exile, says he would rather die than leave West Bank.

-June 24, 2002: Siding with Sharon, President Bush calls on Palestinians to replace Arafat as leader.

-April 29, 2003: Palestinian parliament confirms Arafat’s deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, as first Palestinian prime minister, appointment pushed for by United States and Israel in effort to sideline Arafat.

-June 4, 2003: At first major Israeli-Palestinian summit without Arafat, Sharon and Bush launch “road map” peace plan, which aims to end fighting and create Palestinian state by 2005.

-Sept. 6, 2003: Abbas, weakened by power struggle with Arafat, resigns and replaced by parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia.

-Oct. 21, 2003: Arafat is diagnosed with gallstones.

-Oct. 27, 2004: Palestinian officials say Arafat collapses and briefly unconscious, two days after being diagnosed with another gallstone.

Update (11/2): Arafat health speculation runs wild (CNN – AP)

Yasser Arafat’s French physicians are refusing to discuss his health crisis, leading to rampant speculation about the Palestinian leader’s dramatic deterioration. One Palestinian official ruled out leukemia, while another said it was not a concern “for the time being.” A medical guessing game has ensued, with talk of possible blood disorders, poisoning, a viral infection. Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, did little to clear things up. He told a Cabinet meeting Sunday that Arafat’s “situation is between full recovery and death,” said an Israeli official who briefed reporters on the meeting. “Arafat’s condition is improving,” the official quoted Zeevi-Farkash as saying. “The blood transfusions have helped. We don’t know if it’s viral infection, perhaps mono, or it’s leukemia or another cancer.” Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, however, has said all types of cancer have been ruled out.

As the ailing 75-year-old Arafat entered his fourth day of emergency treatment at a French military hospital Monday, French doctors maintained their policy of silence. French physicians have refused to comment on the Palestinian leader’s health until a diagnosis can be made based on a battery of tests that started immediately after his arrival Friday. Together, Israelis and Palestinians are waiting impatiently for that diagnosis — though it was unclear when it will come.

Even the due date for a diagnosis was unclear. Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat had said a medical report would be issued by early Tuesday. But Mohammed Rashid, a close Arafat aide, said results were expected Wednesday. Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the results might not be available until Thursday. Arafat has been ill for two weeks and took a turn for the worse Wednesday, collapsing and briefly losing consciousness. Initial blood tests performed in the West Bank revealed a low blood platelet count. French physicians at the Hopital d’Instruction des Armees de Percy, gave Arafat a platelet transfusion shortly after his arrival. Platelets are blood components that aid clotting. A low count indicates a possible problem with the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. There are many causes of platelet decline, ranging in severity from minor to life-threatening. Poisoning, either from the toxic side effects of medicine or food contamination, is only one of many potential explanations for the blood condition. An initial concern was leukemia — which counts among its symptoms a low platelet count. “Arafat does not have leukemia,” his aide, Rashid, said Sunday. “It’s been ruled out. Rule it out.” Arafat’s envoy in Paris, Leila Shahid, sounded less certain. “The doctors exclude for the time being any possibility of leukemia,” she said, also Sunday.

The Israeli parliament’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee discussed Arafat’s condition in its weekly meeting Monday. A military intelligence official told the closed-door meeting that Arafat apparently suffers from a severe viral infection or cancer. Israelis, including government officials, criticized the intelligence network for failing to track Arafat’s deteriorating health. “If there is one figure that intelligence is following since 1968 every day and every hour, and he is not too hard to follow … it is Arafat,” Akiva Eldar, a commentator, said in Israel’s Army Radio morning talk show with Rafi Reshef. “We didn’t know that his health was so bad. Everything that happened at the Muqata (Arafat’s headquarters) a couple of days ago came as a complete surprise,” he said.

Update (11-4 1132): Arafat Clinically Dead

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chris M says:

    What would that do to our elections???? Just what we need …

  2. dw says:

    Are you sure you want him dead? Say what you will about being a terrorist, but he’s the last demon holding back the hoard of Hell from busting through the gates. Hamas and Al-Aqsa are ready for fight for powet.

    If he dies this week, a year from now there will be civil war. The question is whether the Israeli army will invade and impose order (at the risk of pissing off the Arab street and uniting the sides) or wait for the dust to settle and fight the survivor (who may emerge stronger, not weaker, from the battle since they will have supreme authority).

    Sharon may be a fighter, but the last thing he wants is a disintegrating Palestine in his backyard.

  3. lunacy says:

    I’m not sure I see any reason why Sharon and the rest of Israel wouldn’t be delighted to see a disintegrating Palestine in their backyard.

    As long as they are busy fighting each other they are too busy to blow up buses.

    Were I Sharon, I would be glad to speed up wall construction and let the factions reduce the population, use up munitions and perhaps grow weary of violence.

    The Arab world and Europe would be forced to choose side or stand back. It would be interesting to see where each thought their interests lie.

    To me the, the best possibility to arise from such a scenario, that something akin to true leadership and a willingness to work for peace might emerge while Arafat rots in his grave after an inglorious death.


  4. McGehee says:

    And then there’s the simple value of getting rid of one of the original avowed enemies of Israel, a ringleader of Palestinian terrorism, and a certifiable wacko.

    Besides, the Israeli Wal-Marts keep running out of baby wipes because of him.

  5. Jim Comyns says:

    Sorry but I have to disagree. As a former Reagan
    member I gained deep respect for Mr. Arafat who always let you know where you stand. In his ele-
    ment as wrong as it is, things could have been a lot worse. There had been some attempts to re- solve these conflicts however old habits die hard.
    I was looking for an update on Mr. Arafats health
    it might be interesting to see what occurs in his absence.

  6. Tedesco says:

    Arafat needs to die like all his promises for peace.
    He is a Jew hater, propogates war, death and a life of terror. There is nothing nobel or peaceful about the man. God have mercy on those he has polluted with his rhetoric. The man is evil. I personally wish that someone would have the guts to pull the plug if indeed he is in a coma and not already dead.

  7. newpost says:

    Tedesco is right.

  8. david says:

    i can only sence the hate of some ignorants jews and arrogants americans the people the should die are still ilive because idon believe
    that even hell want them ARIE SHARON (mass murder george bush)and all the god them americAns that are figthing in iraq ,the jews of israel try to fool the world with their democracy,the americans do the same the only are
    taboco shewing farmers take that white boy.