PLO leader Erekat undergoes bronchostomy after contracting virus

Days after being hospitalised for COVID-19, Saeb Erekat remains intubated and placed on machine which provides for the oxygenation of blood.

Saeb Erekat
Erekat underwent a lung transplant in the US in 2017 [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Doctors treating senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat for COVID-19 have performed a bronchostomy to examine the condition of his respiratory system, according to his daughter.

Salam Erekat said on Twitter on Wednesday that her father remained intubated and connected to an ECMO machine, which does the work of the lungs by transferring oxygen into the blood.

She said it would take several days to get the results. “Hopefully things will take a better way. Pray for my father,” said Salam Erekat, who herself is a physician.

Erekat, 65, was transferred on Sunday from his home in Jericho in the occupied West Bank to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The longtime chief Palestinian negotiator, who is the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), tested positive for the respiratory disease on October 8.

There is heightened concern over Erekat’s vulnerability to COVID-19 due to chronic health problems involving his respiratory system. In 2017, he underwent a lung transplant in the United States.

The hospital has said he is in a critical but stable condition, and that its medical team is consulting with experts around the world to deal with the case. It says Erekat’s case is especially complicated given his history of health issues.

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 has served as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel and frequently appears in international media. He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas.

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 in the 1967 Middle East war.

There have been 48,129 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, including 427 deaths.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies