Mahmoud Abbas discharged from hospital after week-long stay
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Mahmoud Abbas discharged from hospital after week-long stay

Palestinian president leaves care amid more speculation about his long history of health problems

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been discharged from a West Bank hospital, ending a week-long stay that drew new attention to the 83-year-old’s long history of health problems and his refusal to name a deputy or successor.

Wearing a dark suit and speaking in a steady voice, he said he would quickly return to work and thanked supporters around the world for checking in on him while he was in the hospital.

“Thank God I’m discharged from the hospital today in full health, and will return back to work from tomorrow,” Mr Abbas said.

But he hinted that the heavy work load and stress of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had affected his health.

“If the Jerusalem issue put me in the hospital, I want to leave while Jerusalem is our capital,” he told reporters in a brief statement.

The Palestinians strongly objected to the US decision on Jerusalem, and the subsequent move of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this month.

The Palestinians believe the US move undercuts their claim to Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and Mr Abbas has since frozen ties with the Americans.

The United States has denied prejudicing the final status of Jerusalem, but the standoff with the Palestinians has complicated US plans to unveil a proposal for peace in the Middle East.

US officials have not said when the plan will be unveiled.

Mr Abbas was taken to hospital last weekend with a fever, just days after undergoing ear surgery.

Palestinian officials said he had pneumonia and was on a respirator, receiving antibiotics intravenously.

His allies insisted he was in good health, but day after day he remained in hospital, and on Sunday, plans to release him were abruptly pushed back.

Mr Abbas, a longtime smoker with weight problems, has a long history of health issues, ranging from heart trouble to a bout with prostate cancer a decade ago.

Two years ago, he underwent an emergency heart procedure after suffering exhaustion and chest pains.

More recently, a cardiologist moved into the presidential compound in Ramallah to monitor the longtime leader after a mysterious hospital visit in the US.

That visit followed Mr Abbas’ address to the UN Security Council, in which he appeared weak.

The series of health scares have revived anxiety over a potential or even bloody succession battle.

After more than a decade of avoiding discussion of the post-Abbas era, Palestinian officials have cautiously begun to breach the matter in the open, mostly by playing down the crisis, even while potential successors are quietly jockeying for position.

“Some are using the president’s illness for political gain. Shame on them,” said Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief who is considered to be one of the would-be successors.

Abbas Zaki, a top official in Mr Abbas’ ruling Fatah party, dodged the question of succession, saying the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an umbrella governing body, “will be in charge if the president’s post is empty”.

Mr Abbas took over as a caretaker leader following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004, and was elected for what was supposed to be a five-year term the following year.

A political split with Hamas – the Palestinian militant group that seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 – has prevented new elections.

He has remained in office as president of the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority since then, governing parts of the West Bank.

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