Arafat, Yasir

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Arafat, Yasir or Yasser

(yäsēr` är`äfät; –sər), 1929–2004, leader of the Palestine Liberation OrganizationPalestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), coordinating council for Palestinian organizations, founded (1964) by Egypt and the Arab League and initially controlled by Egypt.
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 (PLO), the coordinating body for Palestinian organizations, and head of Al Fatah, the largest group in the PLO. He was born in Cairo, but spent most of his youth in Jerusalem. After smuggling arms to Arab forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Arafat entered Cairo Univ., where he became chairman of the Palestine Student Federation. He served in the Egyptian army during the Suez campaign (1956) and the following year moved to Kuwait, where he trained Palestinian commandos and edited Our Palestine magazine.

Arafat helped found Al Fatah in 1959 and in 1965 returned to Egypt to head Al Assifa, the military arm of Al Fatah. He went on to become leader of Al Fatah, and when the group gained control of the PLO (1969), Arafat was named the larger body's chairman. The PLO won wide support among Palestinians and third-world nations during the 1970s and 80s, although it was weakened by internal divisions. In 1983, after an Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the PLO was forced to move its headquarters to Tunisia.

In 1988 the PLO, under Arafat's leadership, in effect renounced terrorism and accepted Israel's right to coexist with an independent Palestine. A 1993 accord with Israel led to limited Palestinian self-rule in Jericho and the Gaza StripGaza Strip
, (2007 pop. 1,416,543) rectangular coastal area, c.140 sq mi (370 sq km), SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea adjoining Egypt and Israel, in what was formerly SW Palestine, now officially administered by the Palestinian Authority.
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 in 1994, and Arafat became president of the Palestinian AuthorityPalestinian Authority
(PA) or Palestinian National Authority,
interim self-government body responsible for areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Palestinian control.
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. Arafat, Shimon PeresPeres, Shimon
, 1923–2016, Israeli politician, b. Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus) as Shimon Perski. His family immigrated to Palestine in 1934; his grandparents, who remained in Poland, were killed in the Holocaust.
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, and Yitzhak RabinRabin, Yitzhak
, 1922–95, Israeli general and statesman, b. Jerusalem, the first native-born prime minister of Israel (1974–77, 1992–95). His extensive military experience began in 1940 when he joined the Haganah (Jewish militia) and thereafter fought in the
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 shared the 1994 Nobel peace prize for the 1993 accord. A 1995 agreement called for self-rule for all Arab cities and villages in the West Bank by 1996; Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian-controlled territory in 1996.

In 1999, Arafat and Israeli prime minister Ehud BarakBarak, Ehud
, 1942–, Israeli military and political leader, prime minister of Israel (1999–2001). The son of East European immigrants in Palestine, he was born Ehud Brog, later adopting the Hebrew name Barak [lightning].
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 signed an agreement to finalize their borders and determine the status of Jerusalem by 2000. The difficulty of resolving, however, those issues stalled negotiations and led (Sept., 2000) to renewed violence. In that fighting, Israel, which accused Arafat of responsibility for Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, at times endangered Arafat's personal safety and enhanced his support among Palestinians. Disillusionment with Arafat's leadership within the Palestinian parliament, however, led it in 2003 to establish the post of prime minister in a largely unsuccessful attempt to reduce his power in the months before his death. Although Arafat brought international attention and support to the Palestinian cause, he was ultimately unable to secure an independent state, and at his death left behind a PLO that was divided within and challenged from without by other Palestinian groups (especially HamasHamas
[Arab., = zeal], Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization that was founded in 1987 during the Intifada; it seeks to establish an Islamic state in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip (the former
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). In 2013 foreign experts experts who examined his remains and effects disagreed over whether there were indications of deadly polonium poisoning, an issue that had been raised by his wife; French prosecutors ended an investigation in 2015 for a lack of evidence.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Arafat, Yasir


(partisan name, Abu Amar). Born 1929 in Jerusalem. Figure in the Palestinian resistance movement.

In 1953, Arafat graduated from the University of Cairo, where he had been trained as a civil engineer. From 1952 to 1956 he was chairman of the League of Palestinian Students. As an officer in the Egyptian Army he saw combat during the Anglo-French-Israeli aggression against Egypt (Suez crisis) in 1956. He helped found the Palestine National Liberation Movement (al-Fatah) in the 1950’s and eventually became its leader. In February 1969 he became chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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