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Palestinian Leader and Negotiator Saeb Erekat Dies of COVID-19, Aged 65

November 10, 2020
The world mourns the loss of Palestinian leader and peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, who lost his life to COVID-19 at the age of 65. Photo: Reuters

Leading Palestinian peace negotiator and proponent of the two-state solution Saeb Erekat lost his life to COVID-19 on the 10th of November at the age of 65. Along with the rest of the world, Egypt is mourning the death of Erakat who had become one of the symbols of the new generation fighting for the Palestinian cause.

Egyptian Minster of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry extended his condolences to Erekat’s family, the Palestinian leadership, as well as the people of Palestine in an official statement.

“The Palestinian cause and the entire Arab World have lost a steadfast patriot who had a clear and legitimate case and goals. Erekat has devoted his life to defending [the cause] through all diplomatic and negotiated means in order to restore the rights of the Palestinian people in spite of the obstacles the Palestinian cause has faced over the past decades,” the statement reads.

Palestinian National Authority President, Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the leader of its most powerful faction, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas was also among those who publicly expressed their sorrow and sympathies over the death of Erekat who was also a member of the political party.

“The departure of a brother and a friend, of the great fighter, Dr. Saeb Erekat, is a great loss for Palestine and our people, and we are deeply saddened,” a statement released by Abbas read.

Erekat was the secretary-general of the PLO, as well as the chief negotiator in US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestine, which fell through in 2014.

The late Palestinian politicians, who contracted the virus early in October, passed away in a hospital in Jerusalem after his condition had been deteriorating steadily.

Erakat’s family spoke of their mourning on social media, including his niece Noura Erekat, a prominent Palestinian-American human rights lawyer and author.

Erekat was considered a member of the next generation of Palestinian leaders, but his untimely death along with the imprisonment of Palestinian political figure Marwan Barghouti, who is widely regarded as the leader of the first and second Intifadas, and the death of Palestinian politician Faisal Husseini, creates a gap in succession for the Palestinian leadership as it prepares for the departure of its elder figures.

Erekat was known for his power and assertiveness as a spokesperson for the Palestinian cause, and for his bold presence as a peace negotiator unwilling to yield the rights of Palestinians.

A significant anecdote from Erekat’s lifetime was his insistence to wear the Palestinian keffiyyeh at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference in spite of the Israeli delegation’s threats to depart. Erekat, his keffiyyeh, and the Israeli delegation ultimately staying was a symbol of how his dedication to peace never eclipsed his dedication to the Palestinian cause and national identity.

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