Sun, Jan 02, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Top 10 International Stories: 5. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dies

By Mac William Bishop  /  STAFF REPORTER

Palestinian police struggle with the crowd to load Yasser Arafat's coffin onto the top of a vehicle during the leader's chaotic funeral in Ramallah, West Bank on Nov. 12.

PHOTO: AP

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat died on Nov. 11 at the age of 75, bringing to an end his controversial career as the pre-eminent Palestinian leader.

Arafat died in a military hospital in France, and his subsequent funeral in Egypt and burial in the West Bank city of Ramallah were attended by thousands, including numerous heads of state from the Arab world.

Arafat was born Mohammed Yasser al-Qedwa al-Husseini on Aug. 4, 1929, although sources differ as to whether he was born in Jerusalem or Cairo.

Variously described as a visionary leader, a terrorist and a corrupt tyrant, Arafat served as the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and then the Palestinian Authority for nearly five decades.

With his trademark checkered kaffiyeh, Arafat was a common sight on the world scene, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Israeli politicians Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for their effort to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of the Oslo peace accords.

The talks later fell apart, leading to the current Intifada, or uprising, which began in 2000.

Since that uprising began, hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians have died in a spiral of unbroken violence, with no end to the killing in sight.

Current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pledged to unilaterally close a number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, but it is not clear whether this move will have any impact on the cycle of violence gripping the region.

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