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

"Dr. Erekat's condition now requires medical attention in a hospital," the PLO's Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement.
Image: Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat following a meeting with foreign diplomats, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat after a meeting with foreign diplomats in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in January 2019.MOHAMAD TOROKMAN / Reuters

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 in 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, will be treated at the Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem, a PLO spokesperson confirmed.

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Erekat, who disclosed that he had contracted the 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.

Erekat, a member of Fatah, the most powerful faction within the PLO, has been one of highest-profile faces of the Palestinian leadership for decades, and he has rubbed shoulders with countless presidents and other world leaders.

Erekat, a professor of political science who speaks fluent English, has also written 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. He remains one of the most senior advisers to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

His negotiating days date 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 Erekat's hospitalization came as Israel began to ease restrictions and open up from a second lockdown that was imposed last month at the start of High Holy Days season.

Reuters contributed.