Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 31 October 2020


Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat taken to Israeli hospital for Covid care

Mr Erekat said on October 8 that he had contracted the virus

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat gestures as he speaks to the media in Ramallah. REUTERS, File
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat gestures as he speaks to the media in Ramallah. REUTERS, File

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was taken by ambulance from his home in the occupied West Bank on Sunday to a hospital in Israel for treatment of a worsening coronavirus infection, the Palestine Liberation Organisation said.

Mr Erekat, 65, has been receiving medical care at home since disclosing on October 8 that he had contracted the virus. In addition to his role as chief negotiator, Mr Erekat is secretary-general of the PLO.

"Following his contraction of Covid-19, and due to the chronic health problems he faces in the respiratory system, Dr Erekat's condition now requires medical attention in a hospital. He is currently being transferred to a hospital in Tel Aviv," the PLO's Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement.

The Israeli liaison office confirmed that the government in Tel Aviv had agreed to treat Mr Erekat at an Israeli hospital.

Coronavirus around the world

There is heightened concern over Mr Erekat's vulnerability because he underwent a lung transplant in the United States in 2017.

Witnesses said Mr Erekat was on a stretcher when he was placed inside an Israeli ambulance outside his home in Jericho.

He previously tweeted that he was experiencing "difficult symptoms resulting from my lack of immunity as a result of lung transplantation".

As well as Mr Erekat, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi has also contracted the virus.

Both reportedly attended a meeting of senior Palestinian officials – that included President Mahmood Abbas – just four days before Mr Erekat said he had the virus.

There was no indication whether Mr Erekat was infectious at the time of the meeting, or if Ms Ashrawi was infected at the event.

As well as being the secretary general of the PLO, Mr Erekat is one of the youngest members of its executive committee.

A member of Fatah, the most powerful faction within the PLO, he has been one of the most high-profile faces of the Palestinian leadership for decades, especially to international audiences.

A veteran negotiator and spokesman, he is one of the most senior advisers to Mr Abbas, and also served in senior positions under Mr Abbas' predecessor, Yasser Arafat. His negotiating days date to the earliest public talks with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference during the US presidency of George HW Bush, when Mr Erekat was part of the PLO team that included Ms Ashrawi.

Updated: October 18, 2020 04:31 PM

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