Fast Facts: Yasser Arafat

Biographical and other information on the Palestinian leader:


— Yasser Arafat was born August 4, 1929.

— He is 75 years old.

— His name at birth was Mohammed Abadul-Raouf Qudwa Arafat Al-Husseini.

— Relatives and friends eventually started called him Yasser, or "easy-going."

— Arafat's mother and father were Palestinian and his first years were in Cairo.

— In 1933, when Arafat was 4, his mother died. He then went to live with relatives in Palestine, which was then under British rule.

— His father was killed in the 1948 Mideast War.

— He has a civil engineering degree from the University of Cairo (search).

— His wife was a 28-year-old Christian secretary when they married in 1991. They have one daughter. (See 'Personal' below)

— Before the health crisis, his wife had not seen Arafat since 2001.


— Doctors say Arafat is being flown to a Paris hospital for treatment.

— His condition is being called "serious" though doctors are not saying what is ailing him.

— Aides say Arafat is too weak to stand. He threw up, collapsed and briefly lost consciousness Wednesday.

— One associate says Arafat hasn't recognized all of his visitors and hasn't been able to hold down food.

— Initially Palestinians said Arafat was battling the flu. Hospital officials also said that Arafat has a 1-centimeter-large gallstone (search).

— His aides insist he does not have stomach cancer.

— In recent years, Arafat has had a tremor in his lips and hands, something that is considered a symptom of Parkinson's disease (search).


— In October, 1985, Arafat narrowly escaped an Israeli raid on PLO headquarters in Tunisia.

— In April, 1992, Arafat was rescued after his plane crashed in a desert sandstorm in Libya. Three others on board were killed.


— The speaker of the Palestinian parliament would run the Palestinian Authority for 60 days.

— Arafat's other job, chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, would be filled by his deputy Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas served as prime minister but resigned after power struggles with Arafat.


— In 1965, Arafat organized an armed resistance movement called "Fatah."

— That group took over the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1968 and made Arafat chairman.

— In 1994, Arafat returned to occupied territory after 26 years in exile.

— That's when he established the Palestinian Authority, the first self-rule government for Palestinians in Palestine. (See 'Peace Efforts' below)

— In 1996, Arafat was elected Palestinian Authority president in the first Palestinian elections. Israelis refer to him as chairman of the organization.


— December, 2001: Israel responded to suicide bombings by destroying Arafat's helicopters, essentially confining him to the town of Ramallah where he is headquartered.

— January 2002: Israel parked two tanks and other vehicles outside Arafat's compound in Ramallah, forcing him to stay within its walls.

— March 2002: Israeli officially declared Arafat an "enemy." Troops seized Ramallah.

— April 2002: Israel offered Arafat permanent exile, but Arafat responded that he would rather die than leave the West Bank.

— He had not left the partially demolished compound since May 2002.


— Arafat is known for working 18-hour days and waking up his aides in the middle of the night.

— In 1991, he secretly married secretary Suha Tawil, in Tunis.

— She was 28. Arafat was 62.

— The couple had a daughter, Zahwa, in 1995.

— In 1974, he gained worldwide attention when he spoke to the United Nations. He entered the hall wearing a gun holster and carrying an olive branch. He told delegates "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."


— More than 3,100 Palestinians and almost 1,000 Israelis have been killed since September 2000.

— The number of suicide bombings against Israelis has declined since 2002.

— A bus bombing in August was the first suicide blast in six months.

— Israel says there are fewer attacks because of their crackdown on militants.



— In 1947, Arafat graduated from high school in Cairo.

— That same year, the U.N. voted to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab sectors. Within a year, Jewish leaders declared Israel a state.

— In 1948 Arafat started classes at King Fouad University in Cairo but he quickly left studies to join a group of volunteer fighters called the Muslim Brotherhood (search). The group was disarmed by Egyptian police.

— In 1949 he resumed his classwork.

— In 1951, at the age of 21, Arafat got military training with the Egyptian army.

— In 1956, Arafat earned a degree in civil engineering at the University of Cairo.


— In 1952, Arafat was elected to the leadership of a student association. He organized strikes and protests calling on the Arab League to restore aid to Palestinian students.

— In 1954, Arafat was arrested by Egyptians police and accused of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood.

— In 1956, he secured membership for Palestine at an International Student Conference. That's when he first started wearing his trademark head headdress or "keffiyeh."

— In 1957, he left Egypt for an engineering job in Kuwait.


— In 1965, Arafat formed the Fatah guerilla movement with the goal of liberating Palestine by force. The group rejected the idea that other Arab countries should control Palestine.

— In June 1967, Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the Six-Day War. Israel came away with greatly expanded territory, including Gaza and the West Bank.

— By the end of summer, Arafat snuck into the occupied West Bank to lead resistance there. He moved in and out of the territory, eluding Israeli arrest.

— In 1969, Arafat was elected chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization or PLO after Fatah took over the PLO.


— In 1965, Arafat's Fatah movement attempted to bomb a water canal in Israel. They aborted the attack.

— Arafat initially tried to create a Palestinian state within Jordan. But Jordan retaliated with a bloody attack against the PLO in 1970.

— In 1982, Israel attacked PLO bases in Lebanon.

— Arafat held out until a cease-fire was negotiated and then he agreed the PLO would leave Lebanon. He went to Tunis in North Africa.

— The next year saw extensive fighting between the PLO, Lebanon and Syria.


— In December 1987, a Palestinian uprising began in the West Bank and Gaza.

— Arafat started pushing for a political solution rather than continued military conflict.

— In 1988, he agreed to a U.N. resolution calling on Palestinians to renounce terrorism.

— A second intefadeh began in 2000 and is now entering its fifth year.


— In 1993, Arafat signed the Oslo Peace Accords (search) with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

— The two men, along with Israeli Shimon Peres received the Nobel Peace Prize for the effort.

— That 1993 agreement created the Palestinian Authority to begin limited self-rule for Palestinians.

— On July 1, 1994, Arafat established the first Palestinian government in Palestine.

— In 1995, Rabin was assassinated. Arafat said he lost his partner in the peace process.

— In 2000, Arafat met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton at Camp David. After a week of negotiations, the men could not reach an agreement.