Aging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was set to head to Germany for medical treatment on Monday afternoon, in what officials reportedly described as a “routine” checkpoint.
According to Kan news, officials close to Abbas described the trip as “routine.”
In videos circulating on Palestinian media, two helicopters could be seen landing at Abbas’s office in Ramallah to ferry him to Amman. From there, Abbas will reportedly be taken to Germany.
A spokesperson for Abbas’s office could not be reached for comment on the president’s condition. But Abbas, a longtime smoker, has a long history of health issues, ranging from heart trouble to a battle with prostate cancer more than a decade ago.
The current trip to Germany will not be Abbas’s first. The Palestinian Authority president headed to Berlin in 2019 for medical treatment.
The Palestinian leader, 85, has faced repeated health woes in recent years, leading to fears of a power struggle should he be unable to continue as PA president.
Rumors regarding Abbas’s health have been rampant. Palestinian officials have worked to tamp down unconfirmed reports and keep the president’s health issues out of the public eye.
In February 2018, Abbas underwent medical checks, including a biopsy, at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, according to Jibril Rajoub, the secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, who gave the report to Palestine TV, the official PA channel.
“He had a minor health problem. So he did a check. The doctors took a biopsy from him and we now know he has nothing wrong,” Rajoub said at the time.
Abbas has not appointed a PA vice president or moved to create such a role. Since 2005, when Abbas was elected to a four-year term, the Palestinians also have not held PA presidential elections.
An incapacitated Abbas could also complicate planned Palestinian parliamentary elections in the West Bank. The Palestinians are set to head to their first national vote in 15 years on May 22, when Abbas has decreed Palestinian legislative elections.