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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions