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Palestinian official Erekat still in critical but stable condition

Family says chief negotiator still on a ventilator in the intensive care unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at the J Street National Conference, in Washington, October 28, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at the J Street National Conference, in Washington, October 28, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat remained in critical but stable condition, suffering from COVID-19, in an Israeli hospital Tuesday, his family said.

Erekat’s family told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that he was still on a ventilator in the intensive care unit at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital.

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. He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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

The hospital said Monday that Erekat’s case was extremely challenging in light of his history of health problems, including a lung transplant in 2017. It said he suffered from a weak immune system and a bacterial infection in addition to COVID-19.

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.

Magen David Adom paramedics, escorted by IDF soldiers, arrived at Erekat’s West Bank home on Sunday afternoon to take him to Jerusalem, according to Channel 12 news.

A Fatah spokesperson tweeted at the time that Erekat was moved to the hospital due to complications from the lung transplant he underwent three years ago, and not due to his coronavirus infection. The official explained that Hadassah was chosen because it is the nearest medical center that has the required equipment and medical teams to deal with the specific problem.

Several Israeli lawmakers on Sunday condemned the decision to admit him 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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