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Palestinians declare three days of mourning for Saeb Erekat

FILE PHOTO: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during an interview with Reuters, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a three-day mourning period for Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator who died on Tuesday after contracting COVID-19.

“The departure of the brother and the friend, the great fighter Saeb Erekat, represents a big loss for Palestine and for our people,” Abbas’ office in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank said in a statement.

“We feel deep sorrow for losing him, especially at such difficult times the Palestinian cause is living through.”

Erekat, 65, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), confirmed on Oct. 8 that he had contracted the coronavirus. Three years earlier he had undergone a lung transplant in the United States that left his immune system compromised.

Erekat’s family said he “transitioned peacefully” in hospital on Tuesday. “Saeb lived a life full of thought, love, forgiveness and peace and he will be dearly missed,” they said in a statement.

“Saeb has shown an extraordinary patience and resilience, with the same determination that has characterized his career to achieve freedom for Palestine and a just and lasting peace in our region.

Reporting by Stephen Farrell, Editing by Angus MacSwan