Palestine in turmoil as Arafat deteriorates

Yasser Arafat was dangerously ill in intensive care in Paris last night after a bizarre and, at times, macabre day in which French medics were obliged to deny announcements by the media - and a European prime minister - that he was already clinically dead.

As leaders of the nationalist movements headed by the 75-year-old Arafat were summoned for urgent talks in his battered compound in this West Bank city, Christian Estripeau, a spokes-man for the Percy military hospital outside Paris, announced that he was still alive.

Rejecting earlier reports on Israeli television and on Radio Monte Carlo, Mr Estripeau told waiting reporters: "Mr Arafat is not dead." He added: "The clinical situation following the first days after [Arafat's] admission has become more complicated. The state of health of the patient requires appropriate treatment which necessitated his transfer during the afternoon of Wednesday, 3 November, to a unit suitable for his condition." The chairman of the Palestinian Authority was transferred to intensive care after his condition suddenly deteriorated.

As the Israeli Army was placed on alert for possible unrest and violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, the day reached a climax when the Luxembourg Prime Minister announced that the Palestinian President had already died. As he arrived at a European summit in Brussels, Jean Claude Juncker told reporters Mr Arafat "passed away 15 minutes ago".

He later retracted the statement after speaking to the French President, Jacques Chirac, who made the arrangements for the ailing Mr Arafat to be flown to Paris last Friday and who had gone to Mr Arafat's bedside for a half-hour visit earlier in the day.

Ashraf al-Kurdi, Mr Arafat's Jordanian doctor, made it clear last night that the exact nature of Mr Arafat's illness was still unknown. He added: "President Arafat does not have cardiac arrest or heart failure. He is still alive. He is not clinically dead. There is no brain death, but his condition is deteriorating. Because there has been no diagnosis, we don't know what's wrong with him."

And today the Palestinian envoy to France, Leila Shahid, told French RTL radio: "I can assure that there is no brain death. He is in a coma, we don't know the type but it's a reversible coma."

Amid the wildly conflicting reports about his condition, there were also still doubts last night about who was constitutionally in charge of the Palestinian Authority. But one Palestinian official said here that Ahmed Qureia, the Prime Minister, had taken over some of Mr Arafat's powers on security and finance. Mr Arafat has in the past successfully resisted international pressure to hand over control of the competing security and intelligence services to Mr Qureia and his predecessor, Abu Mazen, now emerging as a pivotal figure in any transition.

There was confusion but calm in Ramallah last night as shoppers thronged the busy streets as normal after a day of Ramadan fasting. One man, Yasser Alaneiti, said: "This is regrettable to see. He is the symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Of course I am sad. He is our President and beloved leader."

But despite speculation that factional fighting could break out after Mr Arafat's death, Mr Alaneiti added: "He will leave a big vacuum, but we will never get into Palestinian versus Palestinian conflict."

Many officials refuse to discuss the issue of where Mr Arafat would be buried if he dies. But the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon - whose top officials met to review the situation - has made it clear he will not allow Mr Arafat to be buried near the al-Aqsa Mosque - also sacred to Jews as the Temple Mount - as Mr Arafat has long made clear he wants.

There was growing speculation last night that, failing Jerusalem, Mr Arafat might, if he dies soon, be buried in Gaza. One Fatah official, Issa Karaqi, said Palestinians would prefer Mr Arafat to be buried in what they regard as their capital, Jerusalem. But, as an alternative, he would probably be buried in Gaza - which Mr Arafat has long regarded as his home - or Ramallah. Although he was born in Egypt, his family came from Khan Yunis in Gaza.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution