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17 years since the passing of Yasser Arafat: His legacy lives

17 years since the passing of Yasser Arafat: His legacy lives
Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH, Thursday, November 11, 2021 (WAFA) -  The 17th anniversary for the passing of President Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) coincides on Thursday.

On November 11, 2004, Arafat died at a French hospital where he was flown to after suffering from a sudden illness following a tight and inhuman Israeli military siege of the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

The late president was born in Jerusalem on August 4, 1929 as "Muhammad Yasser" Abdul Ra‘ouf Daoud Suleiman Arafat al-Kidwa al-Husseini. He was educated in Cairo and participated as a reservist officer in the Egyptian army in fighting the tripartite aggression against Egypt in 1956.

He studied at the Faculty of Engineering at Fouad I University in Cairo, and was an active member at a young age in the Palestinian national movement through his activities in the Palestine Student Union, which he later became its president.

He also joined a group of Palestinian nationalists in the founding of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) in the 1950s. He was elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in February 1969 after Ahmad Shuqeiri and Yehya Hammoudeh.

On November 13, 1974, Abu Ammar delivered a speech on behalf of the Palestinian people to the UN General Assembly in New York, with which he concluded: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter‘s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

As commander-in-chief of the Joint Command of the Palestinian Revolutionary Forces and the Lebanese Nationalist Movement, Abu Ammar spearheaded in the summer of 1982 the battle against the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and the 88-day Israeli military siege of Beirut, which ended in an agreement that allowed the Palestinian fighters to leave the city. When journalists asked Yasser Arafat after leaving Beirut through the sea to Tunisia aboard a Greek ship about his next stop, he replied, "I am going to Palestine."

Yasser Arafat and the leadership of the PLO became guests in Tunisia, and from there he began to work on going to Palestine.

On October 1, 1985, Yasser Arafat miraculously escaped an Israeli raid on Hammam al-Shat suburb of Tunis, which led to the death and wounding of dozens of Palestinians and Tunisians. In 1987, Arafat directed the first uprising, the stone Intifada, which broke out in Palestine against the Israeli occupiers in December of that year. At the same time, he fought political battles at the international level for the recognition of the Palestinian people and their just cause and aspirations.

Following the Declaration of Independence in Algiers on 15 November 1988, the late leader presented at the United Nations General Assembly on 13 and 14 December of the same year a Palestinian initiative for a just peace in the Middle East. The General Assembly was moved at that time to Geneva after the United States had refused to grant Arafat a visa to reach New York. The initiative set the foundation for US President Ronald Reagan to initiate on 16 September a dialogue with the PLO in Tunis that started on 30 March 1989.

Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed on September 13, 1993 in the White House the Oslo Declaration of Principles between the PLO and the Israeli government, which allowed Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership and fighters to return to Palestine after living in exile since 1948.

On January 20, 1996, Yasser Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in general elections and since then has begun the process of building the foundations of a Palestinian state.

However, after the failure of the Camp David negotiations in 2000 as a result of Israeli intransigence and Yasser Arafat‘s insistence not to negate Palestinian rights and constants, the second uprising, the A-Aqsa Intifada, broke out on September 28, 2000. Israeli forces and tanks besieged Arafat at his Ramallah headquarters after accusing him of leading the Intifada. The Israeli army also invaded the Palestinian cities in an operation dubbed "Protective Shield", and kept him under siege in a tight space that lacked the minimum conditions for a human living until his death on November 11, 2004.

Yasser Arafat has gone 17 years ago in body, but he left behind a legacy of struggle and a national strategy that had established for an approach followed by the founding leaders, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Arafat died on November 11, 2004, at a hospital in France where he was rushed after falling seriously ill while under a tight Israeli military siege at his Ramallah headquarters. He was 75.

K.F.

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