Arafat arrives in Paris, rushed to hospital
PARIS – Seriously ill and perhaps fighting for his life, Yasser Arafat was rushed Friday to a military hospital near Paris that specializes in blood disorders. Supporters holding flowers and waving Palestinian flags greeted the Palestinian leader as he was wheeled into the hospital.
It was the first time Arafat has left his Israeli-besieged West Bank headquarters in nearly three years. The 75-year-old Arafat has been sick for the past two weeks and blood tests have revealed he has a low platelet count – a possible symptom of leukemia or other cancers, as well as a number of other maladies.
Arafat arrived on a French military jet at an airfield southwest of Paris and was taken by helicopter to the Hopital d’Instruction des Armees de Percy, landing on a rooftop helipad. Paramedics wheeled Arafat, covered with blankets, on a gurney from the roof into the hospital. His wife, Suha, was at his side.
Specialists at the Percy hospital’s hematology clinic – where patients with blood disorders are treated – were conducting tests on Arafat, the French Defense Ministry said.
“He’s already in his room surrounded by his doctors who have started examining him,” said Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to Paris. “He arrived in good health, conscious, smiling – happy to be in France.”
Doctors were likely to need at least several days before issuing any kind of diagnosis, she said. Arafat was in stable condition and was undergoing treatment for the low platelet count, Palestinian sources told The Associated Press.
“We have three crucial days ahead of us before we can get clear answers as to whether there is something wrong and if it is serious,” said Mohammed Rashid, Arafat’s financial adviser.
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Jamil Tarifi, who was on the plane with Arafat, said his condition was “good, thank God.”
The Percy hospital, which opened in 1996, is set on a hilltop southwest of Paris, with sweeping views of the capital. Police closed roads leading to the building and set up barricades in front of its main entrance.