Tuesday, December 28, 2004
He Lives... He Lives Not... He Lives...
Yasser Arafat fighting for his life CTV.ca News Staff
Insisting reports Yasser Arafat is dead are gravely exaggerated, doctors treating the Palestinian leader concede he is fighting for his life.
As reports of Arafat's condition grow increasingly pessimistic, anxious Palestinian officials are scrambling to take steps they hope will prevent unrest should the ailing 75-year-old leader die.
They have confirmed that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has already assumed some of Arafat's administrative and financial powers.
Arafat has never appointed a successor, but his duties are being shared by Qureia and former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is considered Arafat's number two.
Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said top officials were keeping in touch with the French military hospital where Arafat is being cared for, calling every 30 minutes to check on his condition.
"The Palestinian leadership is in constant meeting to follow up on the president's health," Shaath said from Ramallah, where leaders of the PLO and Arafat's Fatah movement were meeting.
There is still a great deal of confusion over the exact state of Arafat's health, even after the French doctors treating Arafat at the Percy Military Training Hospital outside Paris emerged to quash reports of his death.
"Mr. Arafat is not dead," Christian Estripeau, a spokesman for the Percy Military Training Hospital in Clamart outside Paris, said in a brief statement.
Aside from denying Arafat's passing, however, the doctors would say little else.
Their statement followed a report on Israel's Channel Two news that said Arafat had either died or was clinically dead. Radio Monte Carlo, Al-Arabiya Television and Israel's Haaretz newspaper also reported that he had died.
French television station LCI, however, quoted an anonymous French medical official as saying Arafat was in an "irreversible coma."
Arafat's personal physician, Dr. Ashraf Kurdi, later told Al-Arabiya TV that Arafat hadn't suffered a hemorrhage or stroke. "Arafat has no type of brain death," Kurdi said.
Those are just some of the steady flow of conflicting reports about Arafat's health that have been issued since he first fell ill more than three weeks ago.
Arafat's health took another turn for the worst on Wednesday night, prompting doctors to rush him into intensive care at the French hospital he was airlifted to last week.
Doctors have conducted a battery of tests on Arafat, and say they don't know what is wrong with him. However, they have ruled out leukemia and other forms of cancer as the cause of his blood and digestive disorder.
"He is not getting better, but not getting worse either. He is being examined. He is not in a coma," Shaath said Thursday, encapsulating the mystery that continues to surround Arafat's illness.
"There is no explanation for what has happened."
As expectations for Arafat's recovery shift, the repercussions are already being felt in the West Bank and Gaza.
Approximately 1,500 Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, and another 500 marched in the Balata refugee camp on Thursday -- to cheer their support for the man who has become one of the most powerful symbols of Palestinian resistance.
Israeli security officials met Thursday to discuss what their plan of action may be if Arafat dies. They have decided to secure borders, but will give people space to grieve.
"There have been some changes in the military strategy in saying the army will hold off on operations in certain parts of Gaza and West Bank until there is some resolution on Yasser Arafat's condition," CTV's Janis Mackey Frayer said, reporting from Jerusalem.
"But they are starting to plan for what happens next, not only from a military point of view, but also from a political point of view."
U.S. President George Bush, who has refused to meet with Arafat on the grounds he is an obstacle to peace, responded to reports on Arafat's health during his first post-election media briefing on Thursday.
"We will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that is at peace with Israel," Bush told reporters.
In Canada, Prime Minister Paul Martin predicted that at some point, Arafat's ill health could have an effect on the Middle East peace process.
"A change of authority under any circumstances obviously affects the consequences that will follow," he told reporters in Ottawa.
With files from CTV News and The Associated Press
Truly disappointed, also, that I did not catch any flies with this honey of an opportunity... no one dared comment... hmm... cannot be because of an excess of Christmas cheer now, can it...?
The preceding was a sidetrack and not at all related to the Yasser Arafat passing - carry on past it, Palestine sympathizers - and more power to you in your support of desperate causes (geez- I forget who is the Catholic patron saint of desperate causes; cause (...) if I did remember, you can be sure that I would refer you to him... pronto! Blessings!).