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Yasser Arafat 1929~2004

The Early Years
PLO Established
World Recognition


Yasser Arafat is born in Cairo, Egypt, which today is Africa's most populous city.  


Arafat is born August 24 to Palestinian parents. Documents give his birthplace as Cairo, Egypt, but Arafat later will maintain he was born in Jerusalem. His full name is Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat Al-Qudwa Al Husseini. His father, Abdel Raouf Arafat Al-Qudwa Al Husseini, a native of Gaza, is a textile merchant, and his mother, Zahwa, is from an old Jerusalem family.


Arafat's mother dies of a kidney ailment, and his father is left with seven children to raise. Arafat and his younger brother, Fathi, are sent to Jerusalem to live with relatives of their mother.


Arafat and Fathi return to their father's home in Cairo and the supervision of older sister Inam, then in her late teens.


The teen-age Arafat joins the cause of Palestinian nationalism, procuring weapons in Egypt to be smuggled into Palestine.



The British withdraw from Palestine, and the first Arab-Israeli war breaks out. Arafat joins Palestinian irregular forces and fights in the area around Gaza. The Arabs are defeated.


Arafat returns to Cairo and is elected chairman of the Federation of Palestinian Students.


Arafat's father dies. Arafat does not attend the funeral.


Arafat is elected chairman of the General Union of Palestinian Students, a key political organization with branches throughout Arab countries.




Britain, France and Israel attack Egypt in October, and Arafat serves as a reservist in the Egyptian military. The campaign ends with Israel occupying Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.


Arafat moves to Kuwait to take a job as a civil engineer with the Ministry of Public Works.

Arafat's Fatah movement is founded to reclaim territory for the Palestinians. Today, Fatah is a major faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.  


Arafat and his associates begin forming a Palestinian guerilla movement that eventually will take the name Fatah. Fatah expands regionally in the mid-1960s, and Arafat moves his base to Syria.


The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is established as an umbrella group to represent Palestinians.

Israelis on sentry duty during the Six-Day War.  


Israel defeats the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, the PLO, Iraq and Kuwait in the Six-Day War in June.


Israel attacks the PLO base in Karameh, Jordan, in March. Arafat's command suffers heavy losses, but his performance in battle bolsters his support among his followers.


Arafat becomes chairman of the PLO.


After a civil war, Jordan's King Hussein forces the PLO out of the country. The PLO moves its base to Lebanon, where it continues to carry out raids on Israel.

The 11 Israeli athletes slain by Palestinian gunmen during the 1972 Munich Olympics are honored with a statue during the 1996 Atlanta Games.  


On September 5, hooded Palestinian gunmen who identify themselves as members of the Black September movement take a group of Israeli athletes hostage during the Olympics in Munich, Germany. Eleven Israeli athletes, five Palestinian gunmen and a German policeman are killed in the 23-hour drama. The Black September group is a covert special-operations unit of the PLO.

Israeli soldiers head toward Israel's northern frontier at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.  


Egypt and Syria, supported by the PLO and other Arab nations, launch surprise attacks on Israel in October. Israel counterattacked and captured Egyptian and Syrian territory but withdrew following a cease-fire. The 17-day clash is known as the Yom Kippur War to Israelis.



An October 26 Arab summit in Rabat, Morocco, accepts the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Arafat addresses the United Nations on November 13, making his famous speech: "I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." The U.N. General Assembly votes to grant observer status to the PLO.


Civil war breaks out in Lebanon, pitting Palestinians and pro-Palestinian Lebanese militias against Lebanese Christian forces.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter  


U.S. President Jimmy Carter declares his support for "a homeland for the Palestinians."

West Beirut under fire during an Israeli invasion of PLO bases in Lebanon.  


Israel invades PLO strongholds in Lebanon, destroying the PLO headquarters in Beirut. After the defeat in Beirut, Arafat moves his base to Tunisia.

In September, Israeli troops allow Christian Phalangists to enter Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Hundreds of Palestinians are killed.

The Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza is the scene of where the Intifida, or Palestinian uprising, began.  


The Palestinian uprising known as the Intifada begins in Gaza on December 9.

Arafat tells the United Nations that the PLO has renounced terrorism.  


On December 12, Arafat proclaims an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza and tells the United Nations that the PLO has renounced terrorism. He says the PLO supports the right of all parties to live in peace -- Israel included. By the end of the year, 70 countries recognize the PLO.

Arafat loses credibility when he embraces Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.  


Iraq invades Kuwait on August 2, sparking the Persian Gulf War. The credibility of the PLO and Arafat is seriously undermined in the West by his support of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But the same year, the PLO officially recognizes Israel.

Soha Arafat  


The Palestinian Christian family of Soha Tawil confirms that she has married Arafat in a secret ceremony.

Arafat leaves a Jordanian hospital after surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain following a plane accident.  


Arafat's small plane crashes April 8 in a sandstorm in the Libyan desert, killing the pilot and two others. A U.S. satellite locates the wreckage, and the injured Arafat is rescued after 13 hours.


Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, left, and Arafat shake hands before U.S. President Bill Clinton in the Rose Garden after signing the Oslo accords.  


After secret negotiations near Oslo, Norway, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sign the Oslo Agreement, establishing a framework for peace that includes mutual recognition, limited self-rule for Palestinians in Jericho and Gaza, and provisions for a permanent treaty that would resolve the status of Gaza and the West Bank. The agreement is sealed by a historic handshake between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington.

Arafat accepts a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Oslo accords.  


Arafat receives the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for achieving the Oslo Agreement.

Zahwa Arafat  

Arafat's daughter, Zahwa, is born.

Arafat reacts to Rabin's assassination.  


Israeli Prime Minister Rabin signs an agreement to expand Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and give the Palestinian Authority control over six large West Bank towns. Two months later, an Israeli right-wing extremist assassinates Rabin.

Arafat is sworn in as the first elected president of the Palestinian Authority.  


In the first-ever elections held by Palestinians, Arafat wins the post of president of the Palestinian Authority by a landslide.

Arafat shakes hands with crowds during the Israeli handover of the West Bank city of Hebron.  


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns the West Bank town of Hebron to Palestinian control after 30 years under the Israelis. But after Netanyahu approves a new Jewish housing project in East Jerusalem, violence breaks out.

Arafat and Palestinian officials at the Wye River talks in Maryland.  


After a yearlong stalemate and a marathon 21-hour session mediated by U.S. President Bill Clinton, Netanyahu and Arafat sign the Wye River accords, a land-for-peace deal, in Maryland.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Arafat sign off on an agreement to implement the Wye River accords.  


Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak sign an agreement to implement the Wye treaty. Israel releases 200 Palestinian prisoners and begins transferring West Bank land to Palestinian control.

Barak, from left, Clinton and Arafat at Camp David, Maryland.  


As the September 13 deadline for a final peace accord approaches, Clinton invites Barak and Arafat to Camp David, Maryland, for a summit. The July talks end after 15 days with no agreement, the two sides at an impasse largely over the sovereignty and control of Jerusalem.

In September, crowds of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank attack Israeli security forces with rocks and guns, following a visit by Israel's right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon to a holy site in Jerusalem that Jews call Temple Mount and Muslims call Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. Barak resigns and calls for a special election as the unrest continues.

Ariel Sharon  


Likud Party leader Sharon wins a landslide victory in Israel's February 6 election for prime minister. In June, Sharon's government and Arafat's Palestinian Authority agree to a U.S.-brokered truce to try to halt the violence between the two sides. But the truce erupts into violence and Israel again labels Arafat a terrorist as suicide bombings and Israeli retaliatory response continue into 2002.

Israeli forces raze the area around Arafat's compound.  


In raids spread over several months, Israeli forces storm Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. In the third raid, Israelis destroy a bridge connecting two buildings of Arafat's compound and raze the area between and around the buildings. Government officials report that there are no plans to harm Arafat personally. The siege lasts for ten days, but Arafat remains at the compound for the next two years, restricted by Israeli forces and fearful he would never be allowed to return should he leave the area.

Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, later resigned from post of prime minister.  


Three U.S. Congressmen -- Darrell Issa, Nick Rahall, and Maurice Hinchey -- meet with Arafat at his headquarters. The "road map" peace plan is formally published in April, calling for an end to terrorism, a final settlement and an independent Palestinian state by 2005. Under pressure from an international quartet (the United States, European Union, the United Nations and Russia), Arafat institutes constitutional reform for the Palestinian Authority, transferring some of his presidency's powers to the newly created post of prime minister. The Palestinian Authority's newly formed Cabinet elects Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to that position, but he later resigns.

In October, Arafat declares a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories. This allows him to install a new Palestinian government by decree. He appoints Ahmed Qorei as prime minister and names eight other people to an emergency Cabinet. Arafat looks weak, tired and sometimes dazed during press appearances. His aides deny reports in a London newspaper that Arafat had suffered a mild heart attack, saying he has a stomach flu.

Yasser Arafat delivers a televised speech in April 2004.  


In July, Arafat announces a series of security reforms after a group of militants kidnap Gaza police chief Ghazi al-Jabali, demanding he be fired and investigated for corruption. Arafat obliges and replaces him with Saeb el-Ajez, a police commander in northern Gaza. He also replaces Abdel Razik al-Majeida as head of national security with Mussa Arafat, his nephew and the head of military intelligence. Arafat announces plans to consolidate the 12 security organizations in Gaza into three units -- national security, armed forces and police.

Arafat agrees to "a Palestinian version of reform" that will unify security forces under his prime minister and instruct his attorney general to prosecute corrupt Palestinian officials, according to Palestinian lawmakers. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei, who had said Gaza was in "chaos" over corruption and who had refused to withdraw his resignation in a dispute with over reform, vows to stay on the job after meeting with Palestinian lawmakers.

In October, Palestinian officials say at different times Arafat is suffering from a bad stomach flu, a virus and gall stones. At the end of the month, Arafat travels to a hospital in Paris, France -- his first excursion from his Ramallah compound since 2002 -- and was hospitalized with what Palestinian officials said was a blood disorder. In early November, two U.S. administration officials tell CNN that Arafat is being kept alive by machines while French, Israeli and Egyptian officials negotiate with his family and aides over where he should be buried.

Arafat dies on Thursday, November 11. A hospital spokesman said he died at 3:30 a.m. Thursday (9:30 p.m. Wednesday ET). He had been on a respirator since slipping into a coma on November 3.

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