Israel to allow Arafat to leave his compound for medical treatment
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel will allow Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to briefly leave his compound to receive medical treatment in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Israeli defense ministry officials said Monday.
The decision by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz permits Arafat to leave his compound in the city for the first time in 2 1/2 years, officials said.
Arafat would be allowed to leave for medical checks in a Ramallah hospital on condition he return afterward, the officials said. The decision was made in conjunction with the army chief of staff and the head of the Shin Bet security service.
Palestinian officials said Arafat, who suffered from the flu recently, likely would not take up the offer because he was recovering and had a medical clinic in his compound.
However, Israeli media said the defense ministry arrived at its decision after receiving a request from Palestinian officials.
Arafat has not left his compound since 2002. Israel would only allow Arafat to get treatment inside Ramallah, according to the reports.
The health of the 75-year-old has been a subject of intense speculation in recent years, in part because of the tremor in his lips and hands, considered as a possible symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
On Sunday, a team of five Tunisian doctors briefly examined Arafat and pronounced him “OK.” The group was expected to finish tests on the Palestinian leader Monday and give a full report on his health.
Palestinian officials said Arafat was suffering from influenza but was recovering after more than a week of illness. He had no appetite for several days but has resumed eating and even presided over a lively meeting of his national security council Sunday, Palestinian officials said.
Arafat was laughing and appeared healthy at another meeting with Palestinian officials later Sunday that photographers were allowed to observe briefly.
Last year, Arafat suffered from gall stones, and his aides denied rumors he had stomach cancer.