20:56 GMT02 March 2021
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    The 65-year-old Palestinian politician reportedly had a history of respiratory illness and underwent a lung transplant in 2017.

    Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has died at the age of 65 after contracting COVID-19, members of Erekat's inner circle confirmed.

    The politician's treatment was complicated because of a previous lung transplant surgery.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has mourned the death of the veteran Palestinian negotiator, saying that the nation grieves deeply over the loss.

    "The departure of our brother and friend, the great fighter, Dr Saeb Erekat, represents a great loss for Palestine and our people, and we feel deeply saddened by his loss, especially in light of these difficult circumstances facing the Palestinian cause", Abbas said, as quoted by the state-owned news agency WAFA.

    The president praised Erekat’s prominent role in defending the rights of the Palestinian people and their interests on the international arena.

    Abbas conveyed his condolences to Erekat's family and declared three-day mourning over his death, with flags being flown at half-mast.

    Erakat’s health reportedly deteriorated on 19 October, he was on a ventilator at the Hadassah medical centre in Jerusalem. A week before that, the senior Palestinian official self-isolated at his home in Jericho, located in the West Bank.

    Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, Abbas on 4 November decided to prolong the coronavirus-linked state of emergency for a month. The Palestinian Authority has confirmed over 67,180 new COVID-19 cases so far, with over 570 fatalities.

    One of the most recognisable Palestinians over the past several decades, Erekat has served as a chief negotiator in talks with Israel since 1995.

    death, coronavirus, COVID-19, Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Authority
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