Yasser Arafat Fast Facts

CNN  — 

Here’s a look at the life of the late Yasser Arafat, who was president of the Palestinian Authority.

Birth date: August 24, 1929 (some sources say August 4th)

Death date: November 11, 2004

Birth place: Cairo, Egypt (claimed he was born in Jerusalem)

Birth name: Mohammed Abdel Raouf Arafat al Qudwa al Husseini

Father: Abd al Raouf al Qudwa al Husseini, a merchant

Mother: Zahwa Abu Saud

Marriage: Suha Tawil (November 1991-November 11, 2004, his death)

Children: Zahwa Arafat (July 1995)

Education: Cairo University, civil engineering degree, 1956 (some sources say 1955)

Religion: Sunni Muslim

Other Facts:
The nickname Yasir or Yasser means “easy-going” in Arabic. Arafat acquired it as a teenager.

Arafat’s alias, Abu Ammar, was adopted in the mid 1960s.

1950s - After graduating from college, founds a nationalistic group called Fatah. The group publishes literature that advocates armed rebellion against Israel.

1964 - The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is founded as a network of Palestinian resistance groups. Fatah is one branch of the PLO.

1969 - Elected chairman of the executive committee of the PLO, which begins a campaign of guerrilla fighting to pressure Israel into retreating from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

November 13, 1974 - Addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations. “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

1982 - As Israeli military troops close in on PLO headquarters in Beirut, Arafat flees to Tunisia. The PLO establishes a new base of operations there.

December 13, 1988 - During a UN speech, Arafat renounces terrorism and says he recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

1990-1991 - Supports Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.

April 8, 1992 - Survives a plane crash in Libya that kills the pilot and two others.

September 13, 1993 - Israel and the PLO sign Oslo peace accords in Washington. Arafat shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after the signing.

May 4, 1994 - Signs an accord giving the Palestinians limited self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza.

July 1, 1994 - Returns to Gaza for the first time in 27 years.

July 5, 1994 - Arafat is sworn in as head of the Palestinian Authority and the process of establishing autonomous rule for the Palestinian territories begins.

October 14, 1994 - Wins the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Rabin and Israel’s then-foreign minister, Shimon Peres.

January 20, 1996 - The first Palestinian election is held and Arafat wins the presidency.

2000-2002 - Amid a wave of violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian rebels, the two sides negotiate a series of short-lived ceasefires. The tumult culminates on March 29, 2002, when Israeli troops storm Arafat’s compound and engage in a siege that lasts for weeks.

May 1, 2002 - Israeli forces begin to withdraw from Arafat’s compound. In exchange for the retreat, Arafat agrees to transfer six Palestinian prisoners, wanted by Israel, who had been hiding in the compound.

June 5-6, 2002 - Israeli troops raid Arafat’s compound again, this time in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed 17.

June 24, 2002 - President George W. Bush calls for Arafat’s ouster, declaring that a leadership changeover is vital to the peace process.

September 19, 2002 - Israeli forces launch a third raid on Arafat’s compound, conducting the offensive to compel Arafat to turn over militants who allegedly carried out a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

December 16, 2002 - Arafat denounces Osama bin Laden during an interview with the Sunday Times of London. He says al Qaeda has no connection to the PLO or the Palestinian cause.

March 19, 2003 - Arafat meets with Mahmoud Abbas to offer him the newly created position of prime minister. The role is created as part of a larger US-led plan to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refuses to negotiate with Arafat so the prime minister post is created, allowing Sharon to engage in peace talks with Abbas rather than Arafat.

September 2003 - Abbas resigns as prime minister and Arafat nominates Ahmed Qorei to replace him.

September 11, 2003 - As attacks on civilian targets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem continue, Israeli officials declare that Arafat is hindering the peace process rather than facilitating it.

October 5, 2003 - Arafat declares a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories after a suicide bombing in Haifa prompts the Israeli military to launch strikes against the Palestinian group that claimed responsibility for the attack.

July 2004 - After a series of violent clashes in Gaza, Arafat announces a reform program with the goals of unifying security forces and tackling corruption within the Palestinian Authority.

October 29, 2004 - Suffering from a severe illness, reportedly the flu, Arafat is transported to a hospital in Paris for emergency medical treatment.

November 11, 2004 - Arafat dies at age 75. He is buried in Ramallah after a military funeral in Cairo.

July 4, 2012 - Suha, the widow of Arafat, says she wants his body exhumed to find out whether he was poisoned after tests showed high levels of a radioactive substance on some of his personal belongings.

November 27, 2012 - Arafat’s body is exhumed to test if polonium poisoning led to his death. With French authorities leading the investigation, Swiss and Russian investigators also take samples for independent analysis.

November 6, 2013 - Swiss scientists conclude that their forensic results “moderately” support a proposition that Arafat died of polonium poisoning.

December 26, 2013 - The Russian inquiry findings are announced. “Yasser Arafat died not from the effects of radiation, but of natural causes,” according to the head of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency.

September 2, 2015 - France ends an inquiry into Arafat’s death, with the prosecutor explaining there is “not sufficient evidence of an intervention by a third party who could have attempted to take his life.”

June 24, 2016 - A French court dismisses an appeal to reopen the investigation into Arafat’s death, stating there is not sufficient evidence for a murder trial.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to reflect updated information about the tests on Arafat’s remains to determine whether polonium poisoning led to his death.