They have hailed him as an international leader whose lifelong fight for an independent state embodied the struggle for freedom against oppression.
Arafat died in a Paris hospital early on Thursday.
Despite disagreements with him, all sides in the Palestinian struggle for an independent state were of the view that he was the symbol of leadership and fight for independence, Palestinian Labour Minister Ghassan al-Khatib told Aljazeera on Thursday.
“In these sad moments, we bid farewell to our special leader who was not merely a Palestinian but an international leader, he said.
“We bid him farewell with feelings mixed with sorrow, pride and self-confidence,” he added.
Despite difficulties and continuous Israeli attempts to trigger internal conflicts among the Palestinians, President Arafat united Palestinian political thinking conforming to international law and legitimacy.
He was a leader with long decades
Palestinians will never feel comfortable until they achieve Arafat’s dream, which is to liberate the occupied Palestinian lands, to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital and to give the refugees their right to return, al-Khatib said.
Khalid Mishaal, chief of Hamas’ political Bureau, told Aljazeera: “We feel extreme sadness and pain on the death of our brother Abu Ammar,” using Arafat’s nickname.
He was a great leader with long decades of struggle and open confrontation with the enemy, Mishaal added.
He was firm during the Camp David negotiations when he backed the rights of Palestinians and refused to relinquish Jerusalem, the Hamas resistance leader said.
Islamic Jihad described his death
“Our disagreements with Yasir Arafat never prevented us from standing by his side when the Zionists and the Americans imposed siege on him in his headquarters, Mishaal said.
He held Israel responsible for the death of Arafat and accused it of poisoning him. “He could have had a normal death as he was in his mid-70s, but medical reports in the last two weeks indicate that he was poisoned,” said Mishaal.
“The French, Palestinian and Arab doctors may not find the evidence for this, just as they could not find the evidence for a similar case seven years ago when I was poisoned,” the Hamas leader said.
“I do not hesitate to accuse Israel of Arafat’s killing. I call on my brothers in Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority not to forget this,” he said.
Arafat embodied the hopes of
“I call on the Fatah to strengthen Palestinian unity and advise them to stay away from any conflict or disagreements,” Mishaal said.
“We will also continue our resistance and the intifada until the Israeli occupation is thrown out,” Mishaal said, adding that Palestinians would form a united national leadership.
I call on Arab countries, particularly those related to the Palestinian case and the Arab-Israeli conflict, to prevent Israeli efforts to cause chaos in the Arab world or create collaborator leaderships by collaborators,” said the Hamas leader.
Senior leader of the Islamic Jihad resistance group Nafez Azzam told Aljazeera that Arafat’s death was “the most painful news for us as Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and all free people in the world”.
Voice of freedom
“Arafat did not represent Fatah or Palestine only, but the voice of freedom against aggression and occupation,” he said.
Arafat was instantly recognisable
A fighter of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Arafat’s Fatah movement, vowed to fight on.
“We will kill anyone who would try to bargain over issues President Arafat rejected,” he said. “We will not rest until we drive the Zionists out of our land.”
US President George Bush on Arafat’s death said: “We hope that the future will bring peace and the fulfilment of the aspirations for an independent democratic Palestine that is at peace with its neighbours.”
US Secretary of State Colin Powell added: “We know that, in the eyes of the Palestinian people, Arafat embodied their hopes and dreams for the achievement of an independent Palestinian state.”
Across the globe, from China to South Africa, Bangladesh to France, world leaders were quick to send condolences.
“We bid him farewell
French President Jacques Chirac said: “France, like its partners in the European Union, will maintain, firmly and with conviction, its commitment to two states … living side by side in peace and security. The road map, approved by Yasir Arafat, opens up that prospect.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Arafat – who shared the 1994 Nobel peace prize with then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and then foreign minister Shimon Peres – for having accepted the need for Israel and a Palestinian state to live side by side.
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer pledged his country’s continuing support to the Palestinian struggle for independence.
Iran‘s foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said: “Mr Arafat had fought a long struggle for the goals of the Palestinian people” and endured tremendous pressure from Israel‘s Zionist regime.
And UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described Arafat as one of the few world leaders who was instantly recognisable everywhere – a man who embodied the aspirations of the Palestinian people.