RAMALLAH/GAZA, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee and chief Palestinian negotiator, died Tuesday at 65 after contracting COVID-19.
Erekat died while receiving treatment at the Israeli Hadassah Hospital, where he had been treated for about three weeks, after suffering health complications due to his infection with COVID-19, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Movement said in a press statement.
The senior Palestinian official contracted the coronavirus last month. As his condition deteriorated, he was transferred from his West Bank home town of Jericho to the Israeli hospital in mid-October.
Erekat, born in East Jerusalem in 1955, had been the chief Palestinian negotiator since 1996 and previously participated in the Oslo peace agreement signed by the PLO and Israel at the White House in Washington in 1993.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that President Abbas mourned Erekat and ordered flags at half-mast for three days.
"Erekat spent his life as a fighter, and a formidable peace negotiator defending Palestine, its cause, its people, and its independent national decision," WAFA quoted Abbas as saying.
He added that Erekat's departure "represents a great loss for Palestine and our people, and we are deeply saddened by his loss, especially in light of these difficult circumstances facing the Palestinian cause."
Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO Executive Committee member, mourned Erekat and described him as "a national leader and an icon of the Palestinian political and struggle movement."
"Erekat worked tirelessly to achieve peace and obtain freedom and dignity for the Palestinians. He contributed to the consolidation of justice for the Palestinian cause," Ashrawi said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye said in a press statement that "Erekat spent his life as a fighter and a solid negotiator defending Palestine, its cause, its people, and its independent national decision."
In Gaza, the Islamic Hamas movement said in a press statement that it offers its condolences and sympathy to the Palestinian people and the Fatah Movement on the death of Erekat.
According to an official statement, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh sent the movement's condolences in a telephone conversation with President Abbas. Enditem