Intubated and on life support, PA’s Saeb Erekat undergoes bronchostomy

Senior PLO negotiator in critical condition with COVID-19 at Jerusalem hospital; ‘Hopefully things will take a better way,’ daughter says

PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

A doctor treating Palestinian official Saeb Erekat for COVID-19 in a Jerusalem hospital performed a bronchostomy on Wednesday to examine the condition of his respiratory system, his daughter said.

Salam Erekat said on Twitter that her father remained intubated and connected to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which does the work of the lungs by transferring oxygen into blood, as well as a ventilator.

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

“Pray for my father,” she said.

Erekat, 65, was transferred Sunday from the West Bank to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem.

The hospital has said he is in 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, including a lung transplant in 2017.

Erekat, 65, has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past several decades, serving as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel and making frequent media appearances. He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

He was hospitalized at Hadassah despite the Palestinian leadership’s decision earlier this year to sever ties with Israel over plans to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank as part of US President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan. Israel has since frozen the annexation plan.

One of the architects of the Oslo peace accords, Erekat has been the PLO’s chief negotiator since 1995. Erekat has led numerous rounds of peace talks with Israel for over two decades and continues to play a central role in Palestinian politics.

Erekat had been in isolation in his house in Jericho since his diagnosis earlier this month. He had initially only experienced light coronavirus symptoms, including a fever.

Several Israeli lawmakers on Sunday condemned the decision to admit Erekat to a Jerusalem hospital, saying that Israel should have demanded that the Hamas terror group in Gaza first return the captives and bodies of soldiers it is holding. It was unclear why the MKs believed that the Hamas terror group, which has ruled Gaza since ousting Abbas’s rival forces in 2007, would make such a major concession to save Erekat, one of Abbas’s top officials.

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