Top PLO official Erekat, stricken by COVID-19, taken to hospital

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s health worsens 10 days after first announcing he contracted coronavirus.

Erekat is also one of the most senior advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has been taken by ambulance to a hospital in Israel, more than a week after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Witnesses said the 65-year-old was on a stretcher on Sunday when he was placed inside an Israeli ambulance outside his home in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank.

Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), disclosed on October 8 he had fallen ill with COVID-19. His condition has since worsened and the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement Erekat “now requires medical attention in a hospital”.

There is heightened concern over Erekat’s vulnerability to the respiratory disease due to chronic health problems involving his respiratory system. In 2017, he underwent a lung transplant in the United States.

After announcing he was being taken to a facility in Tel Aviv, the PLO later said Erekat had been transferred to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, his brother, Saber Erekat, told the AFP news agency Saeb’s “situation is not good”.

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

Erekat is also one of the most senior advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and also served in top positions under Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat.

His negotiating days date back to the earliest public negotiations with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference when Erekat was part of the PLO team.

A proponent of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Erekat has been a leading Palestinian voice in opposing Israel’s illegal settlement policy in territory it captured and occupied after the 1967 war.

To date, there have been 42,490 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the West Bank, including 381 related deaths.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies