Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 2, 2012..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A team of doctors at an American hospital said top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat underwent a successful lung transplant surgery on Thursday evening, PLO Ambassador to the US Husam Zomlot said on Friday.
Erekat, 62, well-known to American and Israeli officials, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis five years ago, a disease that scars and damages lung tissue. In a recent interview with Palestinian Authority television, he said he was in need of a lung transplant due to a significant deterioration in his ability to breathe over the past five months.
“The medical team announced the surgery was successful and Erekat’s new lung is working and responding well,” Zomlot said in a statement published on the official PA news site Wafa.
The transplant surgery, which took place at Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia, lasted four hours and 33 minutes, according to Erekat’s son Ali.
Zomlot added that while Erekat “is in good condition,” he “needs to receive follow-up treatment for several weeks.”
It usually takes some three to six months to recover fully from lung transplant surgery, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center website.
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A picture posted on the PLO representative office’s Twitter account shows Erekat lying on a gurney clenching his left fist, while his sons, Ali and Muhammad, and Zomlot, stand by his side. It is unclear if the photo was taken before or after doctors operated on the Palestinian leader.
Despite his poor health over the past several months, Erekat has continued to issue official statements, reacting to developments in Palestinian politics. On Thursday morning, he welcomed the preliminary agreement between Hamas and Fatah to restore the PA’s presence in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials, including a number of Erekat’s top critics such as Hamas Politburo member Musa Abu Marzouk, on Friday wished him a speedy recovery.