Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

A Timeline of Yasser Arafat’s Life

November 12, 2004
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The following is a timeline of the life of Yasser Arafat:

1929 — Arafat is born to a family of merchants in Egypt (though he often claimed to have been born in Jerusalem); 1952-1956 — Attends Cairo University, where he joins the Islamist movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Also organizes the Union of Palestinian Students;

1956 — Arafat has said he fights in the Egyptian army during the Suez War, but some believe he is in Czechoslovakia, attending a Communist-sponsored student congress;

1957 — He leaves Egypt and, a year later, settles in Kuwait, where he works as an engineer;

Late 1950s — Co-founds Fatah, a Palestinian political movement dedicated to armed struggle against Israel;

1964 — The PLO is founded at an Arab League summit. Fatah will soon become its central element;

1965 — Fatah carries out its first terrorist attack on Israel, an attempt to blow up the National Water Carrier.

1968 — Losses the PLO inflicts on Israeli soldiers at the battle of Karameh, in Jordan, and Arafat’s daring escape from the battle on a motorcycle add to his mystique and solidify his growing hold on the PLO;

1969 — Arafat is elected chairman of the PLO’s Executive Committee;

1970 — PLO attempts to destabilize and ultimately take over Jordan prompt King Hussein to crack down on the PLO and kick them out of the country. Thousands of Palestinians are killed in what comes to be known as “Black September.” Arafat chooses Lebanon as his new base of operations.

1972 — Palestinian terrorists kill 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The attack and other terrorist actions, mainly airplane hijackings, put the Palestinian cause on the international stage;

1974 — Wearing a pistol, Arafat addresses the U.N. General Assembly. The assembly recognizes “the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and national independence” and gives the PLO observer status at the world organization;

1982 — Israeli forces drive Arafat from Beirut, forcing him to set up his base in Tunisia;

1987-1993 — Riots break out that grow into the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising. The fighting eventually claims the lives of an estimated 1,100 Palestinians and 150 Israelis;

1988 — Arafat says the PLO accepts U.N. Resolution 242, implies recognition of Israel and, at least formally, renounces terrorism. As a result, the United States opens a dialogue with the PLO;

1990 — The United States breaks off its dialogue with the PLO after Arafat refuses to condemn a terrorist attack carried out by a member group. Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein after he invades Kuwait, and during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq the following year, leads Persian Gulf states to cut off their funding for the PLO;

1991 — Arafat marries his 28-year-old secretary, Suha Tawil. Born a Christian, she converts to Islam;

1993 — Israel and the PLO agree on a framework for peace in what later are called the Oslo accords. The framework is signed on the White House lawn, where Arafat hakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin;

1994 — Arafat, along with Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Arafat returns to the Gaza Strip after a 25-year exile;

1996 — Arafat is overwhelmingly elected president of the Palestinian Authority. Under heavy pressure, the PLO’s Parliament-in-exile votes to revoke sections of the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction, but never completes the process;

2000 — Arafat refuses a peace plan proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit. Later that year, Palestinians begin a wave of terrorism that intensifies after a visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon. This grows into what is called the second intifada, which is still ongoing;

2001 — Frustrated by Arafat’s ongoing support for violence, Israel confines him to his compound in Ramallah, where he remains until October 2004.

2002 — The United States breaks with Arafat after he is found to have lied about P.A. involvement with a weapons ship arriving from Iran. President Bush later makes replacement of leaders “compromised by terrorism” — a clear nod to Arafat — a precondition for Palestinian statehood;

2004 — Arafat dies on Thursday, Nov. 11 in a Paris hospital.

Recommended from JTA