Palestinian president Abbas leaves hospital

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas left hospital on Monday following eight days of treatment for pneumonia and pledged to return to work.

The 83-year-old, dressed in a suit as usual and walking without assistance, gave a short statement on being discharged, saying he planned to be back at work in his office as normal on Tuesday.

"Thanks to God, I left the hospital today in good health and return to work starting tomorrow," he said, speaking vigorously and with his two sons by his side.

"I thank the leaders, kings, politicians, presidents, brothers -- Arab and non-Arab -- who have kindly asked about me, and I am thankful to all."

Abbas, known to be a heavy smoker, was admitted on May 20 to the Istishari Arab Hospital near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank with complications following an ear operation, including high fever.

Officials have since said he was being treated for pneumonia.

His extended hospitalisation led to widespread speculation over whether his condition was worse than the details being disclosed.

No successor is publicly in line for the Palestinian presidency, which has added to concerns over Abbas's health.

Abbas won a four-year term as president in 2005, but he has since remained in office without further elections.

He argues the split between his Fatah party and Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has made elections politically impossible.

- White House ties -

A moderate, Abbas has been involved in decades of negotiations with Israel but is unpopular among Palestinians, with the majority wanting him to step down.

Many Palestinians see his approach to negotiations as having failed to end the Israeli occupation and come anywhere near reaching the goal of statehood.

Israeli officials, while criticising what they see as his intransigence, greatly value the security coordination with them Abbas's administration has provided.

Some analysts say an interim arrangement would be the most likely course of action after Abbas's death to prevent a lengthy succession battle.

That could mean putting different people in charge of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is currently head of all three.

Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat, the keffiyeh-wearing leader who was charismatic and revered by Palestinians.

Though Abbas has been valued by the international community due to his belief in negotiations and stated opposition to violence, he has struggled to meet Palestinians' expectations left behind by Arafat.

In recent months, Abbas has faced what the Palestinians see as the blatant bias of US President Donald Trump's administration.

Abbas froze all ties with the White House over Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and has increasingly sharpened his rhetoric against US officials.

In a recent speech, he called US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a "son of a dog".