Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat was born in Jerusalem in 1929. While studying at Cairo University (1952-56) he became leader of the Palestinian Students' Union. After leaving university Arafat worked as an engineer in Kuwait.

In 1956 Arafat helped to establish the Al Fatah terrorist group. He also contributed to the magazine Filastinuna (Our Palestine).

In May 1964 Al Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine merged to form the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO used terrorist tactics included murder, hijacking and bombing. By 1969 Arafat had emerged as the leader of the PLO.

On 5th September, 1972, Palestinian guerrillas attacked the quarters of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics. Two athletes were killed and another nine were taken hostage. An attempted rescue bid at an airport the nine hostages, five terrorists and two Germans were killed.

A meeting of Arab states at Rabat in October 1974 it was agreed that the PLO should take responsibility for all Palestinians.

On 22nd March 1976 PLO representatives in New York were allowed to take part in the United Nations debate on conditions in the Israeli-occupied west bank of the Jordan.

In the 1980s the PLO split into several different factions with members of the organization living in Tunisia, the Yemen, Syria and Jordan. Arafat remained leader and in 1985 agreed to recognize the state of Israel if Palestine was given back land that had been seized since 1948.

In 1993 Arafat negotiated a peace agreement with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. This involved Israelis withdrawing from Jericho and the Gaza Strip. As a result the three men shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

In 1995 Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian National Council with 88 per cent of the vote.