RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Seriously ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed on Thursday to be rushed to a French hospital as fears grew for the icon of the struggle for a Palestinian state.
Aides said Palestinian, Tunisian, Jordanian and Egyptian physicians had advised that Arafat, 75, had to be taken abroad, moving him from the West Bank compound where he has been penned by Israel forces for over 2-1/2 years.
France had accepted a request for treatment, a presidential spokeswoman said. Jordanian helicopters would carry Arafat to Jordan early on Friday and from there he would be brought to Paris aboard a French jet, Arafat aides said.
“President Arafat has agreed to go to France after doctors advised him to do so,” said businessman Munib al-Masri, a businessman and confidant of the Palestinian leader.
A thin and weak-looking Arafat, dressed in pajamas, smiled and joked with medics in the first few seconds of film footage released since his condition worsened drastically on Wednesday. Laughing, he clasped the hands of those around him.
His wife Suha hurried to his bedside from Paris for the first time since they were separated by Palestinian-Israeli fighting that erupted after talks foundered in 2000.0