On October 29, 2004 the 75-year old leader of the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was airlifted from his West Bank home of Ramallah to a hospital in Paris.

Symptoms: When Arafat left Ramallah, he was suffering from an intestinal flu and a low level of platelets, which help blood clot, indicating a possible problem with his bone marrow. He was disoriented, weak and unable to recognize colleagues.  At one point, the president lost consciousness.

Diagnosis: Doctors ruled out leukemia after a bone marrow biopsy and had been trying to determine whether the ailment was caused by stomach cancer or a viral infection. By Nov. 5, 2004, the PLO leader had fallen into a coma and died on November 10.

Next in Line:

Upon Arafat's death, Palestinian leaders quickly appointed a temporary government to rule until elections are held in January, 2005. 

Mahmoud Abbas (better known as Abu Mazen) – Arafat’s No. 2 on the PLO executive committee, took over running the PLO while Arafat was being treated. Abbas, a political moderate with a small support base, was elected to head the Palestinian Authority.

Rauhi Fattouh (a relative unknown) was sworn in as temporary president of the Palestinian Authority. He will serve as caretaker president until elections are held.

Ahmed Korei (known as Abu Alaa) – Took over the day-to-day management of the Palestinian Authority (the internationally recognized governing agency for the Palestinian territories).

Marwan Barghouti -- The most popular politician after Arafat, has been serving multiple life sentences in an Israel prison. Sources have said that he plans to run for president as the candidate representing his Fatah movement in the 2005 elections.

Arafat never groomed a successor nor allowed democratic institutions to mature. His passing was expected to cause chaos within the Palestinian polity.


Israel has had a military contingency plan, code-named "New Leaf," in place in the event of an end to Arafat's leadership.


Before his illness Arafat had requested that his body be buried at the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Israelis denied this request for fear that Arafat's burial at the site (holy to both Jews and Muslims) would strengthen Palestinian claims to the Noble Sanctuary/Haram al-Sharif. 

Instead Arafat was buried at his home in Hamallah, where he had been kept under virtual house arrest for the few years of his life.


For the last few years, the United States and Israel have refused to have any dealings with Arafat and hope that a change in leadership would reopen dialogue between the parties.

Palestinians fear that political chaos following the death of the leader (since Arafat never designated a successor) would leave the Palestinians weak and vulnerable.









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