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Palestinians remember Arafat

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Palestinians remember Arafat

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Palestinians are marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, with his dream of a Palestinian state seemingly further away than ever.

Thousands packed the West Bank town of Ramallah from where the charismatic founder of the PLO continued the struggle against Israel until his death in 2004. But five years later, the people he led are ever more divided. Arafat’s Fatah movement rules only in the West Bank with rivals Hamas in control of Gaza, and his successor, President Mahmoud Abbas, says he won’t seek re-election in January leaving the future deeply uncertain.

“Palestinians are not as interested now in individual leaders who seem to be liked and condoned by the international community,” said Palestinian analyst Nader Said. “They want someone who can actually change the situation.” Arafat still casts a long shadow. His death triggered a bitter power struggle which Fatah and Hamas seem unable or unwilling to resolve. “Fatah is not a truly institutional movement, and Arafat’s death left a vacuum which was filled by irresponsible and inexperienced people,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zhuri. “Their policies have seriously harmed the Palestinian cause.” In his final years, Arafat lived under Israeli siege at his bombed headquarters in Ramallah. Increasingly ill, he flew to Paris where he died in a military hospital. His wife refused an autopsy and Palestinian leaders have never revealed the exact cause of death. It remains to be seen if his hopes of a Palestinian homeland died with him.