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Yasser Arafat's health has worsened sharply and he is slipping in and out of consciousness at his besieged West Bank headquarters
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's health has worsened sharply and he is slipping in and out of consciousness at his besieged West Bank headquarters, officials and medics said Thursday. Arafat, 75, veteran symbol of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, beloved by most of his people and reviled by many Israelis, was "very, very sick," a Palestinian cabinet minister said on condition of anonymity. Details of the illness were unclear. Palestinian leaders were summoned to the battered compound where Arafat has been effectively penned by Israeli forces for more than two years, accused by Israel of fomenting violence in a 4-year-old uprising. Arafat denies the charge. Questions over Arafat's health have increased fears of chaos in Palestinian territories because he has not named an obvious successor. Security forces were put on high alert as reports of Arafat's condition swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "He has spells of unconsciousness," said one medical source, adding that there were contingency plans to move Arafat to a hospital for treatment -- if need be before teams of Egyptian and Jordanian doctors arrive later in the day, informs Reuters. According to ABC News, Yasser Arafat collapsed Wednesday night, was unconscious for about 10 minutes and remained in a "very difficult situation," Palestinian officials said. A team of Jordanian doctors was urgently summoned to treat the ailing Palestinian leader. A Palestinian official in Arafat's office said the Palestinian leader had created a special committee of three senior officials, including Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, to run Palestinian affairs while Arafat was incapacitated. However, other Palestinian officials, including his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh, denied that such a committee had been formed. Arafat was eating soup during a meeting with Qureia, his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, and another official between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. (2 p.m. or 3 p.m. EDT) when he vomited, according to a bodyguard who was in the compound at the time. Doctors were rushed to the bedside of ailing Yasser Arafat at his West Bank headquarters as a top official said the 75-year-old Palestinian leader was in a critical condition. Israeli public radio said that Arafat, who has been kept under virtual house arrest in Ramallah for nearly three years, had lost consciousness for several hours, as members of the Palestinian security services were placed on alert. Arafat's health has been the subject of speculation for several days after a team of Tunisian medics was sent to the West Bank to carry out tests over the weekend, although Palestinian officials were insisting he had nothing more than a severe bout of influenza. However cabinet secretary Hassan Abu Libdeh confirmed that Arafat's condition had turned serious, reports Channelnewsasia.
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