Yasser Arafat (search) is suffering from stomach cancer, according to a source inside his Ramallah compound, Time magazine has reported.
However, the 74-year-old Palestinian leader’s personal physician, Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi (search), and gastroenterologist Dr. Ala Toukan, told The Associated Press that that rumor was untrue.
"President Arafat has a stomach ailment," al-Kurdi said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. "Reports that he had a heart attack or is suffering from stomach cancer are completely untrue."
Arafat's condition has been widely covered in Arab media outlets. According to Time, Al-Jazeera reported that a team of doctors from Jordan and another team from Egypt arrived in Ramallah Wednesday to treat Arafat.
Abu Dhabi TV reported Thursday that the Egyptian doctors "expressed concern" about the state of Arafat’s health following their examination, according to Time.
Reports of Arafat's state of health pushed aside most local broadcast news in Israel on Thursday. Two Israeli TV stations conducted their own interviews with al-Kurdi. Israel's government has labeled Arafat an obstacle to peace and has threatened to "remove" him.
Arafat has been confined for nearly two years to his compound by Israeli sieges and threats that he will not be allowed to return if he leaves.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled (search) said Wednesday that Israel "probably would" permit Arafat to leave the compound if he needs to be treated at a hospital.
"We're following it (Arafat's health)," Peled said. "I wouldn't say we're worried, or upset or anything. We're simply following it."
Arafat’s health has been the cause of much recent debate. Arafat’s advisers said Wednesday that he has the stomach flu and continues to be weak, but denied a report that he suffered a mild heart attack.
In recent appearances Arafat has looked drawn and pale and his lower lip has trembled considerably. He spoke with great effort and with prompting from his chief adviser, Nabil Abu Rdeneh (search). At times, he appeared to be in a daze, staring straight ahead.
The British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday quoted Arafat aides as saying he had a "slight heart attack" last week, but that the incident was kept secret for fear of creating panic.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat (search) denied Wednesday that Arafat suffered a heart attack, saying the Palestinian leader is battling a stomach virus.
On Sept. 29, al-Kurdi rushed from Jordan to Arafat's compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah to examine the Palestinian leader. At the time, Arafat had been unable to keep down his food for three days, and Palestinian sources said he feared at the time that he had been poisoned.
Al-Kurdi, accompanied by a neurologist, an internist and a heart specialist, said after the check-up that Arafat was in relatively good health.
However, Arafat has not improved since that visit, his aides said on condition of anonymity. Arafat continues to pick at his food and requires a lot of rest.
Several years ago, Arafat developed noticeable tremors in his lower lip. Doctors have said it was a nervous tic. Media reports have speculated he suffers from Parkinson's disease (search), a degenerative neurological disease.
In response to twin homicide bombings last month, Israel threatened to "remove" Arafat as an obstacle to peace, but did not say whether it intended to expel or kill him, or when it would take action.
After a weekend bombing killed 19 people in a Haifa restaurant, there were new demands in Israel to expel Arafat. However, the government did not make good on its threats, in part because of U.S. opposition to expulsion.
Israel charges that Arafat is responsible for three years of Mideast violence. Palestinians reply that Arafat is their elected leader, and Israeli occupation is behind the violence.
Fox News' David Lee Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.