Yasser Arafat 1929 -2004

Founder of Fatah political party in 1959 at Cairo University, at the time known as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. Based in Syria after 1962.

Fatah's manpower was incremented after Arafat offered new recruits much higher salaries than members of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The PLO was created in Cairo by the Arab League in 1964, followed by the founding of the PLA in September at the Second Arab Summit Conference in Alexandria.
Ahmad Shukeiri was the first Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee from 1964 to 1967. He resigned in December 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in June.

Barely a week after the defeat of the Six Day War, Arafat crossed the Jordan River in disguise and entered the West Bank, where he set up recruitment centers in Hebron, the Jerusalem area and Nablus, and began attracting both fighters and financiers for his cause. At the same time, the Egyptian President Nasser 1918-1970 contacted Arafat through the former's adviser Mohammed Heikal and Arafat was declared by Nasser to be the "leader of the Palestinians." In December 1967 when Ahmad Shukeiri resigned, Yahya Hammuda took his place and invited Arafat to join the organization.

Heavily armed Palestinian elements created a virtual "state within a state" in Jordan, eventually controlling several strategic positions in that country.

On 4 February 1969, Arafat was elected Chairman of the PLO in Cairo.

"Black" September 1970 saw 3,400 PLO and 600 Syrians killed fighting Jordan's army, who lost 537 soldiers. By July 1971 King Hussein had ousted all remaining Palestinian fighters from Jordan.
Arafat managed to enter Syria with nearly two thousand of his fighters. However, due to the hostility of relations between Arafat and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (who had recently ousted President Salah Jadid in March 1971), the Palestinian fighters crossed the border into Lebanon to join PLO forces in that country.

Because of Lebanon's weak central government, the PLO was able to operate virtually as an independent state. The Munich attack at the Olympic Games followed in 1972.

By 1975, Lebanon was in a full-blown civil war, followed by Syria's invasion of the country in mid-1976. In March 1978 the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) took control of Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, and Arafat withdrew his PLO forces north into Beirut.

On 6 June 1982, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon to expel the PLO. Beirut was soon besieged and bombarded by the IDF. At the end of August 1982 Arafat abandoned Beirut and set up a new headquarters in Tunis in Tunisia, receiving financial assistance from Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Although Arafat tried to return to Lebanon in 1983, he was besieged by Fatah rebels supported by Syria and with his followers was again forced into exile from December 1983 until July 1994.

In 1990, Arafat married Suha Tawil, a Palestinian Christian, when he was 61 and Suha, 27. Her mother introduced her to him in France, after which she worked as his secretary in Tunis. Prior to their marriage, Arafat adopted fifty Palestinian war orphans. During their marriage, Suha tried to leave Arafat on many occasions, but he forbade it. Suha said she regretted the marriage, and given the choice again would not repeat it. In mid-1995, Arafat's wife Suha gave birth in a Paris hospital to a daughter, named Zahwa after Arafat's mother.

In the 1993 Oslo Accords Arafat—as Chairman of the PLO and its official representative—signed two letters renouncing violence and officially recognizing Israel. In return, Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin 1922-1995, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO. The following year, Arafat and Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Israel's President Shimon Peres 1923-2016.

However, on the day Arafat signed the Oslo Accords he told Jordanian and Egyptian media that these accords are not to be taken seriously but are part of the "plan of phases". In July 1994 Arafat moved to Gaza City, via Cairo. Shortly after, he made the following statement: “Only a Palestinian State can continue the struggle to remove the enemy from all Palestinian lands” (Yasser Arafat, quoted in the Jerusalem Post, November 18, 1994).

In 1996 in a closed meeting with Arab diplomats in Stockholm he made the following statement (reported by Cal Thomas in the Washington Times, also by the Middle East Digest, March 7, 1996): “Within five years we will have 6 to 7 million Arabs living on the West Bank and in Jerusalem... We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. Jews will not want to live among Arabs. I have no use for Jews... We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.”

Addressing his people at a public event in July 2001, “Kill a settler every day… Shoot at settlers everywhere… Woe to you if you let them reach their homes safely or travel safely on the roads… I want you to kill as many settlers as possible… Do not pay attention to what I say in the media, the television or public appearances. Pay attention only to the written instructions you receive from me.”

On 11 November 2004, he died (rumoured poisoned). He was succeeded as Chairman of the PLO by Mahmoud Abbas. In 2005, following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri (who had recently resigned), Syria finally withdrew its troops from Lebanon.

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