Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa al-Hussaeini was born on August 24, 1929 in Cairo. His father a successful trader had connections with Egypt while his mother was a very devout Muslim from Jerusalem. He was named Yasser that means easy.india Updated: Jun 25, 2003 19:28 IST
Arafat's mother died while he was four following which he was sent to Jerusalem with his maternal uncle. After a few years in Jerusalem he was taken by his father to Cairo. He studied at Cairo but became deeply sympathetic to the Palestine cause by the early 1940s. He was one of the key members, involved in smuggling of arms for an uprising against the British rulers in Jerusalem.
The subsequent defeat of Arabs in 1948 by the Israelis and the formation of an independent Israel state did not deter him. His goal continued to make Palestine an independent state at any cost.
In 1958, he along with some of his friends founded the Al-Fatah, an underground network of secret cells and began to publish a magazine advocating armed struggle against Israel. Al-Fatah, however was not recognised by most Arab nations including Syria, Jordan and Egypt. These states had formed their own group named the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to further their cause of evicting Israelis from Palestine land.
It took these states to look upon Yasser Arafat after their defeat at the hands of Israel in the Arab war of 1967 during which the Arabs lost the possession of Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and West Bank.
It wasn't until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when the Arabs lost the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and West Bank to Israel that Arab nations turned to Arafat. In 1968 he became the leader of the PLO and started strengthening it. By now Arafat had graduated from a youth leader to a ruthless leader propagating armed resistance against Israel.
The Arabs had a major stake in the PLO and still used to control it but Arafat's tactics was instrumental in annoying some of its closest allies. Jordan from where the PLO was being run, was forced to expel him after a spate of violence targeted against Israel. This had no affect on Arafat, who kept moving throughout the globe furthering the Palestine cause and strengthening the PLO. He also escaped several Israeli attempts to eliminate him.
After almost two decades of hardline policy Arafat, softened up and in 1988 in an address to the United Nations he agreed to recongise Israel. Following intense diplomatic efforts he met Israeli leaders in 1993 to embark on a peace mission. The secret peace talks in Norway led to the Oslo Peace Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin.
The agreement granted limited Palestinian self-rule and earned Arafat, Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.
In January 1996 Arafat was elected the first president of the Palestinian Council governing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
First Published: Jun 25, 2003 19:28 IST