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Key Palestinian leader dies of Covid-19

JERUSALEM, Palestine: Saeb Erekat, one of the most vocal and prominent Palestinian political figures, died with Covid-19.

The 65-year-old passed away in Jerusalem at Hadassah Medical Center, where he had been admitted last month after being diagnosed with the disease.

Erekat led the Palestinians in peace talks with Israel for many years. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described Erekat as a “brother” and a “fighter”. Abbas declared three days of national mourning.

Erekat was secretary general of the main Palestinian movement, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and an adviser to Abbas.

He helped negotiate the landmark Oslo Accords in 1993, which created the Palestinian Authority and gave Palestinians limited self-governance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the first time since Israel occupied the territories in 1967.

President Abbas said the death of “our dear brother and friend, the great fighter, Dr Saeb Erekat, represents a great loss for Palestine and our people”.

Erekat announced on October 8 that he had tested positive for coronavirus but his condition deteriorated and he was transferred to the Israeli hospital from his home in Jericho in the West Bank 11 days later.

Doctors said Erekat had undergone a lung transplant three years ago and had a weakened immune system and bacterial infection, in addition to coronavirus.

He was put on a ventilator and placed in a medically induced coma before his death.

Erekat was a proponent of the so-called two-state solution – an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel – to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and recently condemned moves by Arab states to normalise relations with Israel without it.

He called the UAE’s decision in August to formalise ties with Israel as “a killer to the two-state solution” and said the US was “part of the problem and becoming more irrelevant in the Middle East” over its support for Israel under President Donald Trump.