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Yasser Arafat

(1929-2004) Also referred to as Abu Ammar. A Palestinian political and military figure. In 1959, Arafat was one of the founders of the Palestinian Fatah movement. Arafat served as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004. He oversaw political and guerrilla activities of the PLO first from Jordan, then Lebanon and later Tunisia. In 1996, he became the first elected President of the Palestinian Authority, which has governing authority over certain parts of the West Bank and Gaza; Arafat held this position until his death in 2004. In a speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 1988, Arafat stated his willingness to accept Palestinian statehood based on UN Resolution 242 a resolution that recognizes the rights of all states to sovereignty. Many viewed this as the beginning of the PLO’s recognition of the right of the State of Israel exist. He signed the Oslo Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Rabin and Israeli political figure Shimon Peres. Arafat became increasingly marginalized by the United States and Israel after the Second Intifada started, and was isolated completely from diplomatic relations in 2003. Arafat died on November 11, 2004 in Percy military hospital in Paris from causes that are still unverified. One controversial theory is that he was poisoned, a theory that was supported by an independent Swiss investigation, yet rejected by a Russian one. See "Yasser Arafat: 1929-2004," Kristina Nwazota, PBS Online News Hour, July 15 2011.

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