Senior PLO official Saeb Erekat taken to hospital as Covid-19 condition worsens

JERUSALEM — Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Israel on Sunday for treatment of a worsening case of Covid-19, the Palestine Liberation Organization said.

Witnesses said Erekat, 65, was on a stretcher when he was placed inside an Israeli ambulance outside his home in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank.

“Following his contraction of Covid-19, and due to the chronic health problems he faces in the respiratory system, Dr. Erekat’s condition now requires medical attention in a hospital,” the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement.

Erekat, who is also secretary-general of the PLO, would be treated at the Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem, A PLO spokesperson confirmed to NBC News.

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Erekat, who disclosed that he had contracted coronavirus on Oct. 8., underwent a lung transplant in the United States in 2017, so there is heightened concern over his vulnerability to the disease.

A member of Fatah, the most powerful faction within the PLO, he has been one of the most high-profile faces of the Palestinian leadership for decades and has rubbed shoulders with countless Presidents and world leaders.

The professor of political science, who speaks fluent English, has also authored dozens of books.

Unlike others he has not totally rejected the peace process with Israel and has instead advocated for a two-state solution based on 1967 borders and remains one of the most senior advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

His negotiating days date back to the earliest public negotiations with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when Erekat was part of the PLO team.

News of Saeb’s hospitalization came as Israel began to ease restrictions and open up from a second lockdown imposed last month at the start of High Holy Day season.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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