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In Pictures: Yasser Arafat’s life
A chronicle of the Palestinian leader who brought his country’s struggle for freedom to the world’s attention.
A portrait of Yasser Arafat in the 1940s. Arafat was born on August 24, 1929 in Cairo, Egypt, to Palestinian parents. He spent most of his youth in Egypt, and is believed to have started smuggling weapons into Palestine, then under British mandate, in 1946.
Published On 3 Jul 2012
3 Jul 2012
Arafat moved to Kuwait in 1956 after fighting in the first Arab-Israeli War and finishing his engineering degree at the University of Fuad I (now Cairo University). In 1958, he and other Palestinian activists formed Fatah, a Palestinian nationalist group advocating armed struggle against Israel.
Arafat, left, sits with members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, formed in 1964 as an umbrella union of groups fighting against Israel(***)s takeover of Palestine. After 1967(***)s Six-Day War, Arafat(***)s Fatah gained prominence, and he became PLO chief in 1969.
Arafat (right) stands next to a machine gun in in Lebanon, where the PLO relocated after King Hussein expelled it from Jordan in 1971. It remained based in Lebanon until 1982, when the Israeli army invaded the country and forced the PLO to relocate to Tunisia.
The PLO was granted observer status at the UN in 1974 shortly after Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly, which then recognised the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty.
Arafat, right, met with Saddam Hussein, then-president of Iraq, in October 1988. Two months later, Arafat recognised Israel(***)s right to exist and renounced violence in a speech to the UN General Assembly, leading US President Ronald Reagan to lift a 13-year ban on talks with the PLO.
After the First Intifada (1987-1993), the PLO and Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords - intended to be a framework for future talks - which allowed Arafat to return to Gaza in July 1994. The deal established the Palestinian Authority, of which Arafat became president in 1996.
Folowing the Oslo Accords deal, Arafat (left), then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (centre), and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin won the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1994.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Arafat shake hands after signing an agreement on September 4, 1999, paving the way for talks on a permanent peace deal. In July 2000, nine days of talks at Camp David ended with Arafat and Barak failing to reach a lasting peace settlement.
The Second Intifada, a period of intensified violence, began in late September 2000. In December 2001, Israel retaliated to a slew of suicide bombings by destroying much of Arafat(***)s Ramallah headquarters, essentially forcing him into house arrest.
Responding to US pressure to have Arafat relinquish some of his power, the PA elected a prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, for the first time in April 2003. Abbas resigned the following September and was succeeded by Ahmed Qurei, but Arafat remained the primary decision maker.
Arafat died on November 11, 2004, after falling ill the previous month. For many, Arafat remains a powerful embodiment of the Palestinian cause, which he spearheaded for almost four decades.