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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
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

Digital Marketing Manger,Mill Hill,London

To £55kpa (12 Month Contract): Charter Selection: Major household name charity...

Project Co-ordinator/Administrator - Central London

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Linux Systems Administrator - UNIX, Linux, Shell, Bash

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - UNI...

UNIX Systems Administrator - Oracle DBA, UNIX, Scripting

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Systems Administrator - Orac...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil