15 December 2001

The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to stabilize it, without fixing its famous lean.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Torre pendente di Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa SB.jpeg
Leaning Tower of Pisa in 2013
AffiliationCatholic Church
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusActive
LocationPisa, Italy
Geographic coordinates43°43′23″N 10°23′47″E / 43.72306°N 10.39639°E / 43.72306; 10.39639Coordinates: 43°43′23″N 10°23′47″E / 43.72306°N 10.39639°E / 43.72306; 10.39639
Architect(s)Bonanno Pisano
Height (max)55.86 metres (183.3 ft)
Part ofPiazza del Duomo, Pisa
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iv, vi
Inscription1987 (11th Session)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa) or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa [ˈtorre di ˈpiːza, - ˈpiːsa]) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third-oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

The height of the tower is 55.86 metres (183.27 feet) from the ground on the low side and 56.67 metres (185.93 feet) on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 m (8 ft 0.06 in). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons (16,000 short tons).[1] The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase.

The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground which could not properly support the structure's weight, and it worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. By 1990 the tilt had reached 5.5 degrees.[2][3][4] The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001, which reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees.


There has been controversy about the real identity of the architect of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For many years, the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano,[5] a well-known 12th-century resident artist of Pisa, known for his bronze casting, particularly in the Pisa Duomo. Pisano left Pisa in 1185 for Monreale, Sicily, only to come back and die in his home town. A piece of cast bearing his name was discovered at the foot of the tower in 1820, but this may be related to the bronze door in the façade of the cathedral that was destroyed in 1595. A 2001 study seems to indicate Diotisalvi was the original architect, due to the time of construction and affinity with other Diotisalvi works, notably the bell tower of San Nicola and the Baptistery, both in Pisa.[6]


Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. On 5 January 1172, Donna Berta di Bernardo, a widow and resident of the house of dell'Opera di Santa Maria, bequeathed sixty soldi to the Opera Campanilis petrarum Sancte Marie. The sum was then used toward the purchase of a few stones which still form the base of the bell tower.[7] On 9 August 1173, the foundations of the tower were laid.[8] Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on 14 August of the same year during a period of military success and prosperity. This ground floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals.[citation needed] Nearly four centuries later Giorgio Vasari wrote: "Guglielmo, according to what is being said, in the year 1174, together with sculptor Bonanno, laid the foundations of the bell tower of the cathedral in Pisa".[9]

The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, as the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. Otherwise, the tower would almost certainly have toppled.[10] On 27 December 1233, the worker Benenato, son of Gerardo Bottici, oversaw the continuation of the tower's construction.[11]

On 23 February 1260, Guido Speziale, son of Giovanni Pisano, was elected to oversee the building of the tower.[12] On 12 April 1264, the master builder , architect of the Camposanto, and 23 workers went to the mountains close to Pisa to cut marble. The cut stones were given to Rainaldo Speziale, worker of St. Francesco.[13] In 1272, construction resumed under Di Simone. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is curved.[14] Construction was halted again in 1284 when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria.[8][15]

The seventh floor was completed in 1319.[16] The bell-chamber was finally added in 1372. It was built by , who succeeded in harmonizing the Gothic elements of the belfry with the Romanesque style of the tower.[17][18] There are seven bells, one for each note of the musical major scale. The largest one was installed in 1655.[10]

History following construction

Between 1589 and 1592,[citation needed] Galileo Galilei, who lived in Pisa at the time, is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass. The primary source for this is the biography Racconto istorico della vita di Galileo Galilei (Historical Account of the Life of Galileo Galilei), written by Galileo's pupil and secretary Vincenzo Viviani in 1654, but only published in 1717, long after his death. [19][20]

During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. A U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral and its campanile, and thus refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.[21][22]

Numerous efforts have been made to restore the tower to a vertical orientation or at least keep it from falling over. Most of these efforts failed; some worsened the tilt. On 27 February 1964, the government of Italy requested aid in preventing the tower from toppling. It was, however, considered important to retain the current tilt, due to the role that this element played in promoting the tourism industry of Pisa.[23]

A multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians, and historians gathered on the Azores islands to discuss stabilisation methods.[when?] It was found that the tilt was increasing in combination with the softer foundations on the lower side. Many methods were proposed to stabilise the tower, including the addition of 800 tonnes of lead counterweights to the raised end of the base.[24]

The tower and the neighbouring cathedral, baptistery, and cemetery are included in the Piazza del Duomo UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was declared in 1987.[25]

The tower was closed to the public on 7 January 1990, after more than two decades of stabilisation studies and spurred by the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989. The bells were removed to relieve some weight and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of a potential fall of the tower were vacated for safety. The selected method for preventing the collapse of the tower was to slightly reduce its tilt to a safer angle by soil removal 38 cubic metres (1,342 cubic feet) from underneath the raised end. The tower's tilt was reduced by 45 centimetres (17.7 inches), returning to its 1838 position. After a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on 15 December 2001, and was declared stable for at least another 300 years.[24] In total, 70 metric tons (77 short tons) of soil were removed.[26]

After a phase (1990–2001) of structural strengthening,[27] the tower has been undergoing gradual surface restoration to repair visible damage, mostly corrosion and blackening. These are particularly pronounced due to the tower's age and its exposure to wind and rain.[28] In May 2008, engineers announced that the tower had been stabilized such that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history. They stated that it would be stable for at least 200 years.[26]

Surviving earthquakes

At least four strong earthquakes hit the region since 1280, but the apparently vulnerable Tower survived. The reason was not understood until a research group of 16 engineers investigated. The researchers concluded that the Tower was able to withstand the tremors because of dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI): the height and stiffness of the Tower together with the softness of the foundation soil influences the vibrational characteristics of the structure in such a way that the Tower does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. The same soft soil that caused the leaning and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse helped it survive.[30]

Guinness World Records

Two German churches have challenged the tower's status as the world's most lop-sided building: the 15th-century square Leaning Tower of Suurhusen and the 14th-century bell tower in the town of Bad Frankenhausen.[31] Guinness World Records measured the Pisa and Suurhusen towers, finding the former's tilt to be 3.97 degrees.[32] In June 2010, Guinness World Records certified the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi, UAE as the "World's Furthest Leaning Man-made Tower";[33] it has an 18-degree slope, almost five times more than the Pisa Tower, but was deliberately engineered to slant. The Leaning Tower of Wanaka in New Zealand, also deliberately built, leans at 53 degrees to the ground.[34]

Technical information

An elevation image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa cut with laser scan data from a University of Ferrara/CyArk research partnership, with source image accurate down to 5 mm (0.2 in)
  • Elevation of Piazza del Duomo: about 2 metres (6 feet, DMS)
  • Height from the ground floor: 55.863 metres (183 ft 3.3 in),[35] 8 stories[36]
  • Height from the foundation floor: 58.36 m (191 ft 5.64 in)[37]
  • Outer diameter of base: 15.484 metres (50 ft 9.6 in)[35]
  • Inner diameter of base: 7.368 metres (24 ft 2.1 in)[35]
  • Angle of slant: 3.97 degrees[32] or 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the vertical[38]
  • Weight: 14,700 metric tons (16,200 short tons)[39]
  • Thickness of walls at the base: 2.44 metres (8 ft 0 in)
  • Total number of bells: 7, tuned to musical scale,[40] clockwise:[citation needed]
    • 1st bell: L'Assunta, cast in 1654 by , weight 3,620 kg (7,981 lb)
    • 2nd bell: Il Crocifisso, cast in 1572 by , weight 2,462 kg (5,428 lb)
    • 3rd bell: San Ranieri, cast in 1719–1721 by , weight 1,448 kg (3,192 lb)
    • 4th bell: La Terza (1st small one), cast in 1473, weight 300 kg (661 lb)
    • 5th bell: La Pasquereccia or La Giustizia, cast in 1262[41] by , weight 1,014 kg (2,235 lb)
    • 6th bell: Il Vespruccio (2nd small one), cast in the 14th century and again in 1501 by , weight 1,000 kg (2,205 lb)
    • 7th bell: Dal Pozzo, cast in 1606 and again in 2004, weight 652 kg (1,437 lb)[42]
  • Number of steps to the top: 296[43]

About the 5th bell: The name Pasquareccia comes from Easter, because it used to ring on Easter day. However, this bell is older than the bell-chamber itself, and comes from the tower Vergata in Palazzo Pretorio in Pisa, where it was called La Giustizia (The Justice). The bell was tolled to announce executions of criminals and traitors, including Count Ugolino in 1289.[44] A new bell was installed in the bell tower at the end of the 18th century to replace the broken Pasquareccia.[citation needed]

The circular shape and great height of the campanile were unusual for their time, and the crowning belfry is stylistically distinct from the rest of the construction. This belfry incorporates a 14 cm (5.5 in) correction for the inclined axis below. The siting of the campanile within the Piazza del Duomo diverges from the axial alignment of the cathedral and baptistery of the Piazza del Duomo.[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ "Leaning Tower of Pisa Facts". Leaning Tower of Pisa. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  2. ^ "Europe | Saving the Leaning Tower". BBC News. 15 December 2001. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  3. ^ "Tower of Pisa". Archidose.org. 17 June 2001. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  4. ^ "Leaning Tower of Pisa (tower, Pisa, Italy) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  5. ^ Controversy about the identity of the architect Archived 13 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Pierotti, Piero. (2001). Deotisalvi – L'architetto pisano del secolo d'oro. Pisa: Pacini Editore
  7. ^ Capitular Record Offices of Pisa, parchment n. 248
  8. ^ a b Potts, David M.; Zdravkovic, Lidija; Zdravković, Lidija (2001). Finite Element Analysis in Geotechnical Engineering: Application. Thomas Telford. p. 254. ISBN 9780727727831.
  9. ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1878). Le opere di Giorgio Vasari: Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori (in Italian). G.C. Sansoni. p. 274. OCLC 15220635. Guglielmo, secondo che si dice, l'anno 1174, insieme con Bonanno scultore, fondò in Pisa il campanile del Duomo, dove sono alcune parole
  10. ^ a b "Fall of the Leaning Tower - History of Interventions". NOVA Online (PBS). 1999. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  11. ^ Public Record Offices of Pisa, Opera della Primaziale, 27 December 1234
  12. ^ Public Record Offices of Pisa, Opera della Primaziale, 23 February 1260
  13. ^ Public Record Offices of Pisa, Roncioni, 12 April 1265.
  14. ^ McLain, Bill (1999). Do Fish Drink Water?. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. pp. 291–292. ISBN 0-688-16512-5.
  15. ^ Touring club italiano (2005). Authentic Tuscany. Touring Editore. p. 64. ISBN 9788836532971.
  16. ^ Roth, Leland M. (13 March 2018). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 9780429975219.
  17. ^ G. Barsali (1999), Pisa. History and masterpieces, Bonechi, p. 18, ISBN 8872041880
  18. ^ Giorgio Vasari, Jean Paul Richter (1855), Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, H. G. Bohn, p. 153
  19. ^ "Sci Tech : Science history: setting the record straight". The Hindu. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  20. ^ Vincenzo Viviani on museo galileo
  21. ^ Shrady, Nicholas (2003): Tilt: a skewed history of the Tower of Pisa
  22. ^ "Why I spared the Leaning Tower of Pisa". The Guardian. 12 January 2000. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Securing the Lean In Tower of Pisa". The New York Times. 1 November 1987.
  24. ^ a b "Tipping the Balance". TIME Magazine. 25 June 2001.
  25. ^ "Piazza del Duomo, Pisa". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  26. ^ a b Duff, Mark (28 May 2008). "Europe | Pisa's leaning tower 'stabilised'". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  27. ^ A profile of an engineer employed to straighten the tower Ingenia, March 2005
  28. ^ Restoration work is mentioned at the official website of the square
  29. ^ Tom (6 May 2015). "Leaning Tower of Pisa in the 1890s". Cool Old Photos. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  30. ^ "500-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery unveiled by engineers". ScienceDaily. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  31. ^ Sunday Telegraph no. 2,406, 22 July 2007
  32. ^ a b "German steeple beats Leaning Tower of Pisa into Guinness book". Trend News Agency. AFP. 9 November 2007. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009.
  33. ^ "Not so fast, Pisa! UAE lays claim to world's furthest leaning tower". CNN news. 7 June 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  34. ^ 'Leaning and tumbling towers' on Puzzling World website, viewed 30 July 2011
  35. ^ a b c "2051?". The Michigan Architect and Engineer. 27: 17. 1952.
  36. ^ Burland, J.B. (2008). "Stabilising the Leaning Tower of Pisa: the Evolution of Geotechnical Solutions". Trans. Newcomen Soc. 78 (2): 174. doi:10.1179/175035208X317657. ISSN 0372-0187.
  37. ^ Valdes, Giuliano (1994). Art and History of Pisa. Casa Editrice Bonechi. p. 44. ISBN 9788880290247.
  38. ^ tan(3.97 degrees) * (55.86m + 56.70m)/2 = 3.9m
  39. ^ Strom, Steven; Nathan, Kurt; Woland, Jake; Lamm, David (28 September 2009). Site Engineering for Landscape Architects. John Wiley and Sons. p. 124. ISBN 9780471695493.
  40. ^ Black, William Harman (1920). The Real Europe Pocket Guide-book: Number 10 of the 'Black's Blue Books'. Brentanos. p. 360. OCLC 316943604.
  41. ^ Black, Charles Bertram (1898). The Riviera, Or The Coast from Marseilles to Leghorn: Including the Interior Towns of Carrara, Lucca, Pisa and Pistoia. A. & C. Black. p. 148. OCLC 18806463.
  42. ^ "Leaning Tower of Pisa: 1920s Photo of Dal Pozzo". www.endex.com. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  43. ^ Davies, Andrew (2005). The Children's Visual World Atlas. Sydney, Australia: The Fog Press. ISBN 1-74089-317-4.
  44. ^ "Torre pendente" (in Italian). Lucca turismo. Retrieved 19 March 2008.

External links

14 December 1971

Over 200 of East Pakistan’s intellectuals are executed by the Pakistan Army and their local allies. (The date is commemorated in Bangladesh as Martyred Intellectuals Day.)

Bangladesh Liberation War

Bangladesh Liberation War
মুক্তিযুদ্ধ Muktijuddho
Part of Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts and the Cold War
Clockwise from top left; Martyred Intellectuals Memorial, Bangladesh Forces howitzer, Surrender of Pakistan to Indian and Bangladesh forces,[1] the PNS Ghazi.
Date26 March 1971 – 16 December 1971

Indian-Bangladeshi victory

Independence of East Pakistan from Pakistan as the sovereign People's Republic of Bangladesh

Provisional Government of Bangladesh



Commanders and leaders

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
(President of Provisional Government of Bangladesh)
Tajuddin Ahmad
(Prime Minister of Provisional Government of Bangladesh)
M. A. G. Osmani
(Cdr-in-C, Bangladesh Forces)
Maj. K.M. Shafiullah
(Commander, S Force)
Maj. Ziaur Rahman
(Commander, Z Force)
Maj. Khaled Mosharraf
(Commander, K Force)
Gp Capt. A. K. Khandker
(Second-in-Command, Bangladesh Forces)

V. V. Giri
(President of India)
Indira Gandhi
(Prime Minister of India)
Gen Sam Manekshaw
(Chief of Army Staff)
Lt Gen J.S. Arora
(GOC-in-C, Eastern Command)
Lt Gen Sagat Singh
(GOC-in-C, IV Corps)
Maj Gen Inderjit Singh Gill
(Dir., Military Operations)
Maj Gen Om Malhotra
(COS, IV Corps)
Maj.Gen Farj R. Jacob
(COS, Eastern Command)
Maj.Gen Shabeg Singh
(Cdr Training of MB)
V.Adm Nilakanta Krishnan
(FOC-in-C, Eastern Naval Command)
AM Hari Chand Dewan
(AOC-in-C, Eastern Air Command)

Yahya Khan
(President of Pakistan)
Nurul Amin
(Prime Minister of Pakistan)
Gen. A.H. Khan
(Chief of Staff, Army GHQ)
Lt-Gen A.A.K. Niazi Surrendered
(Commander, Eastern Command)
Maj-Gen Rao Farman Ali Surrendered
(Mil.Adv., Govt. EPk)
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Maj-Gen Khadim Hussain Surrendered
(GOC, 14th Infantry Division)
R-Adm Moh'd Shariff Surrendered
(Cdr, Eastern Naval Command)
Capt. Ahmad Zamir Surrendered
(CO, Pakistan Marines East)
Cdr Zafar Muhammad 
(CO, PNS Ghazi)
Air Cdre Inamul Haque Surrendered
(AOC, Eastern Air Command)
Air Cdre Mitty Masud
(AOC, Eastern Air Cmnd. (1969–71))

Abdul Motaleb Malik
(Governor of East Pakistan)
Ghulam Azam
(Chair, Nagorik Shanti Committee)
Motiur Rahman Nizami
(Emir of Jamaat-e-Islami)
Abdul Quader Molla
(Leader, Al-Badr)
Abul Kalam Azad
(Leader, Razakar)
Fazlul Qadir Chaudhry
(Leader, Al-Shams)
~365,000 regular troops (~97,000+ in East Pakistan)[2]
~25,000 militiamen[4]
Casualties and losses
~30,000 killed[5][6]
1,426–1,525 killed[7]
3,611–4,061 wounded[7]

26 March-3 December
4,500 killed
4,000 wounded[8]
4 December-16 December
2,261 killed
8,000 wounded[8]
90,000—93,000 captured[9] (including 79,676 troops and 10,324—12,192 local militiamen)[7][10][11]
41 Tanks captured[8]
Civilian deaths:[6] Estimates range between 300,000 and 3 million.
Part of a series on the
History of Bangladesh
Map of Bangladesh
Flag of Bangladesh.svg Bangladesh portal

The Bangladesh Liberation War[a] (Bengali: মুক্তিযুদ্ধ Muktijuddho), also known as the Bangladesh War of Independence, or simply the Liberation War in Bangladesh, was a revolution and armed conflict sparked by the rise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in what was then East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. It resulted in the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The war began after the Pakistani military junta based in West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight against the people of East Pakistan on the night of 25 March 1971. It pursued the systematic elimination of nationalist Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, religious minorities and armed personnel. The junta annulled the results of the 1970 elections and arrested Prime minister-designate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The war ended on 16 December 1971 after West Pakistan surrendered.

Rural and urban areas across East Pakistan saw extensive military operations and air strikes to suppress the tide of civil disobedience that formed following the 1970 election stalemate. The Pakistan Army, which had the backing of Islamists, created radical religious militias – the Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams – to assist it during raids on the local populace.[14][15][16][17][18] Urdu-speaking Biharis in Bangladesh (ethnic minority) were also in support of Pakistani military. Members of the Pakistani military and supporting militias engaged in mass murder, deportation and genocidal rape. The capital Dhaka was the scene of numerous massacres, including Operation Searchlight and the Dhaka University massacre. An estimated 10 million Bengali refugees fled to neighbouring India, while 30 million were internally displaced.[19] Sectarian violence broke out between Bengalis and Urdu-speaking immigrants. An academic consensus prevails that the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military were a genocide.

The Bangladeshi Declaration of Independence was proclaimed from Chittagong by members of the Mukti Bahini – the national liberation army formed by Bengali military, paramilitary and civilians. The East Bengal Regiment and the East Pakistan Rifles played a crucial role in the resistance. Led by General M. A. G. Osmani and eleven sector commanders, the Bangladesh Forces waged a mass guerrilla war against the Pakistani military. They liberated numerous towns and cities in the initial months of the conflict. The Pakistan Army regained momentum in the monsoon. Bengali guerrillas carried out widespread sabotage, including Operation Jackpot against the Pakistan Navy. The nascent Bangladesh Air Force flew sorties against Pakistani military bases. By November, the Bangladesh forces restricted the Pakistani military to its barracks during the night. They secured control of most parts of the countryside.[20]

The Provisional Government of Bangladesh was formed on 17 April 1971 in Mujibnagar and moved to Calcutta as a government in exile. Bengali members of the Pakistani civil, military and diplomatic corps defected to the Bangladeshi provisional government. Thousands of Bengali families were interned in West Pakistan, from where many escaped to Afghanistan. Bengali cultural activists operated the clandestine Free Bengal Radio Station. The plight of millions of war-ravaged Bengali civilians caused worldwide outrage and alarm. India, which was led by Indira Gandhi, provided substantial diplomatic, economic and military support to Bangladeshi nationalists. British, Indian and American musicians organised the world's first benefit concert in New York City to support the Bangladeshi people. Senator Ted Kennedy in the United States led a congressional campaign for an end to Pakistani military persecution; while U.S. diplomats in East Pakistan strongly dissented with the Nixon administration's close ties to the Pakistani military dictator Yahya Khan.

India joined the war on 3 December 1971, after Pakistan launched preemptive air strikes on North India. The subsequent Indo-Pakistani War witnessed engagements on two war fronts. With air supremacy achieved in the eastern theatre and the rapid advance of the Allied Forces of Bangladesh and India, Pakistan surrendered in Dacca on 16 December 1971.

The war changed the geopolitical landscape of South Asia, with the emergence of Bangladesh as the seventh-most populous country in the world. Due to complex regional alliances, the war was a major episode in Cold War tensions involving the United States, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The majority of member states in the United Nations recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign nation in 1972.


Map of the British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green, including modern-day Bangladesh in the east and Pakistan in the west.

Prior to the Partition of British India, the Lahore Resolution initially envisaged separate Muslim-majority states in the eastern and northwestern zones of British India. A proposal for an independent United Bengal was mooted by Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in 1946, but was opposed by the colonial authorities. The East Pakistan Renaissance Society advocated the creation of a sovereign state in eastern British India. Eventually, political negotiations led, in August 1947, to the official birth of two states, Pakistan and India,[21] giving presumably permanent homes for Muslims and Hindus respectively following the departure of the British. The Dominion of Pakistan comprised two geographically and culturally separate areas to the east and the west with India in between.[22] The western zone was popularly (and for a period, also officially) termed West Pakistan and the eastern zone (modern-day Bangladesh) was initially termed East Bengal and later, East Pakistan. Although the population of the two zones was close to equal, political power was concentrated in West Pakistan and it was widely perceived that East Pakistan was being exploited economically, leading to many grievances. Administration of two discontinuous territories was also seen as a challenge.[23] On 25 March 1971, after an election won by an East Pakistani political party (the Awami League) was ignored by the ruling (West Pakistani) establishment, rising political discontent and cultural nationalism in East Pakistan was met by brutal[24] suppressive force from the ruling elite of the West Pakistan establishment,[25] in what came to be termed Operation Searchlight.[26] The violent crackdown by the Pakistan Army[27] led to Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declaring East Pakistan's independence as the state of Bangladesh on 26 March 1971.[28] Most Bengalis threw their support behind this move although Islamists and Biharis opposed this and sided with the Pakistan Army instead.[29] Pakistani President Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan ordered the Pakistani military to restore the Pakistani government's authority, beginning the civil war.[28] The war led to a sea of refugees (estimated at the time to be about 10 million)[30][31] flooding into the eastern provinces of India.[32] Facing a mounting humanitarian and economic crisis, India started actively aiding and organising the Bangladeshi resistance army known as the Mukti Bahini.

Language controversy

Language movement memorial

In 1948, Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared that "Urdu, and only Urdu" would be the federal language of Pakistan.[33][34] However, Urdu was historically prevalent only in the north, central, and western region of the subcontinent; whereas in East Bengal, the native language was Bengali, one of the two most easterly branches of the Indo-European languages.[35] The Bengali-speaking people of Pakistan constituted over 30% of the country's population. The government stand was widely viewed as an attempt to suppress the culture of the eastern wing. The people of East Bengal demanded that their language be given federal status alongside Urdu and English. The Language Movement began in 1948, as civil society protested the removal of the Bengali script from currency and stamps, which were in place since the British Raj. The movement reached its climax in 1952, when on 21 February, the police fired on protesting students and civilians, causing several deaths. The day is revered in Bangladesh as the Language Movement Day. Later, in memory of the deaths in 1952, UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day in November 1999.[36]


Although East Pakistan had a larger population, West Pakistan dominated the divided country politically and received more money from the common budget.

Year Spending on West Pakistan (in millions of Pakistani rupees) Spending on East Pakistan (in millions of Pakistani rupees) Amount spent on East as percentage of West
1950–55 11,290 5,240 46.4
1955–60 16,550 5,240 31.7
1960–65 33,550 14,040 41.8
1965–70 51,950 21,410 41.2
Total 113,340 45,930 40.5
Source: Reports of the Advisory Panels for the Fourth Five Year Plan 1970–75, Vol. I,
published by the planning commission of Pakistan.

East Pakistan was already economically disadvantaged at the time of Pakistan's creation yet this economic disparity only increased under Pakistani rule. Factors included not only the deliberate state discrimination in developmental policies but also the fact that the presence of the country's capital and more immigrant businessmen in the Western wing directed greater government allocations there. Due to low numbers of native businessmen in East Pakistan, substantial labour unrest and a tense political environment, there were also much lower foreign investments in the eastern wing. The Pakistani state's economic outlook was geared towards urban industry, which was not compatible with East Pakistan's mainly agrarian economy.[37]

Bengalis were under-represented in the Pakistan military. Officers of Bengali origin in the different wings of the armed forces made up just 5% of overall force by 1965; of these, only a few were in command positions, with the majority in technical or administrative posts.[38] West Pakistanis believed that Bengalis were not "martially inclined" unlike Pashtuns and Punjabis; the "Martial races" notion was dismissed as ridiculous and humiliating by Bengalis.[38] Moreover, despite huge defence spending, East Pakistan received none of the benefits, such as contracts, purchasing and military support jobs. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 over Kashmir also highlighted the sense of military insecurity among Bengalis, as only an under-strength infantry division and 15 combat aircraft without tank support were in East Pakistan to thwart any Indian retaliations during the conflict.[39][40]

Ideological and cultural differences

In 1947 the Bengali Muslims had identified themselves with Pakistan's Islamic project but by the 1970s the people of East Pakistan had given priority to their Bengali ethnicity over their religious identity, desiring a society in accordance with Western principles such as secularism, democracy and socialism.[41] Many Bengali Muslims strongly objected to the Islamist paradigm imposed by the Pakistani state.[42] Most members of West Pakistan's ruling elite also belonged to a liberal society, yet understood a common faith as the mobilising factor behind Pakistan's creation and the subsuming of Pakistan's multiple identities into one.[42] West Pakistanis were substantially more supportive than East Pakistanis of an Islamic state, a tendency which persisted after 1971.[43]

Cultural and linguistic differences between the two wings outweighed any religious unity. The Bengalis took great pride in their culture and language which, with its Bengali script and vocabulary, was unacceptable to the West Pakistani elite, who believed that it possessed considerable Hindu cultural influences.[41][44] West Pakistanis, in an attempt to 'Islamise" the East, wanted the Bengalis to adopt Urdu.[41] The events of the language movement brought about a sentiment among Bengalis in favour of discarding Pakistan's communalism in favour of secular politics.[45] The Awami League began propagating its secular message through its newspaper to the Bengali readership.[46]

The Awami League's emphasis on secularism differentiated it from the Muslim League.[47] In 1971, the Bangladeshi liberation struggle against Pakistan was led by secular leaders[48] and secularists hailed the Bangladeshi victory as the triumph of secular Bengali nationalism over religion-centred Pakistani nationalism.[49] While Pakistan's government strives for an Islamic state, Bangladesh was established secular.[43] After the liberation victory, the Awami League attempted to build a secular order[50] and the pro-Pakistan Islamist parties were barred from political participation.[51] The majority of East Pakistani ulama had either remained neutral or supported the Pakistani state, since they felt that the break-up of Pakistan would be detrimental for Islam.[52]

Political differences

Although East Pakistan accounted for a slight majority of the country's population,[53] political power remained in the hands of West Pakistanis. Since a straightforward system of representation based on population would have concentrated political power in East Pakistan, the West Pakistani establishment came up with the "One Unit" scheme, where all of West Pakistan was considered one province. This was solely to counterbalance the East wing's votes.

After the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan's first prime minister, in 1951, political power began to devolve to the new President of Pakistan, which replaced the office of Governor General when Pakistan became a republic, and, eventually, the military. The nominal elected chief executive, the Prime Minister, was frequently sacked by the establishment, acting through the President.

The East Pakistanis observed that the West Pakistani establishment would swiftly depose any East Pakistanis elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, such as Khawaja Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali Bogra, or Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Their suspicions were further aggravated by the military dictatorships of Ayub Khan (27 October 1958 – 25 March 1969) and Yahya Khan (25 March 1969 – 20 December 1971), both West Pakistanis. The situation reached a climax in 1970, when the Bangladesh Awami League, the largest East Pakistani political party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a landslide victory in the national elections. The party won 167 of the 169 seats allotted to East Pakistan, and thus a majority of the 313 seats in the National Assembly. This gave the Awami League the constitutional right to form a government. However, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (a former Foreign Minister), the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, refused to allow Rahman to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.[54] Instead, he proposed the idea of having two Prime Ministers, one for each wing. The proposal elicited outrage in the east wing, already chafing under the other constitutional innovation, the "One Unit scheme". Bhutto also refused to accept Rahman's Six Points. On 3 March 1971, the two leaders of the two wings along with the President General Yahya Khan met in Dacca to decide the fate of the country. After their discussions yielded no satisfactory results, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for a nationwide strike. Bhutto feared a civil war, therefore, he sent his trusted companion, Mubashir Hassan.[54] A message was conveyed, and Rahman decided to meet Bhutto.[54] Upon his arrival, Rahman met with Bhutto and both agreed to form a coalition government with Rahman as Premier and Bhutto as President.[54] However, the military was unaware of these developments, and Bhutto increased his pressure on Rahman to reach a decision.[54]

On 7 March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (soon to be the prime minister) delivered a speech at the Racecourse Ground (now called the Suhrawardy Udyan). In this speech he mentioned a further four-point condition to consider at the National Assembly Meeting on 25 March:

  • The immediate lifting of martial law.
  • Immediate withdrawal of all military personnel to their barracks.
  • An inquiry into the loss of life.
  • Immediate transfer of power to the elected representative of the people before the assembly meeting 25 March.

He urged his people to turn every house into a fort of resistance. He closed his speech saying, "Our struggle is for our freedom. Our struggle is for our independence." This speech is considered[by whom?] the main event that inspired the nation to fight for its independence. General Tikka Khan was flown into Dacca to become Governor of East Bengal. East-Pakistani judges, including Justice Siddique, refused to swear him in.

Between 10 and 13 March, Pakistan International Airlines cancelled all their international routes to urgently fly "government passengers" to Dacca. These "government passengers" were almost all Pakistani soldiers in civilian dress. MV Swat, a ship of the Pakistan Navy carrying ammunition and soldiers, was harboured in Chittagong Port, but the Bengali workers and sailors at the port refused to unload the ship. A unit of East Pakistan Rifles refused to obey commands to fire on the Bengali demonstrators, beginning a mutiny among the Bengali soldiers.

Response to the 1970 cyclone

The 1970 Bhola cyclone made landfall on the East Pakistan coastline during the evening of 12 November, around the same time as a local high tide,[55] killing an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people. Though the exact death toll is not known, it is considered[by whom?] the deadliest tropical cyclone on record.[56] A week after the landfall, President Khan conceded that his government had made "slips" and "mistakes" in its handling of the relief efforts due to a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the disaster.[57]

A statement released by eleven political leaders in East Pakistan ten days after the cyclone hit charged the government with "gross neglect, callous and utter indifference". They also accused the president of playing down the magnitude of the problem in news coverage.[58] On 19 November, students held a march in Dacca protesting the slowness of the government's response.[59] Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani addressed a rally of 50,000 people on 24 November, where he accused the president of inefficiency and demanded his resignation.

As the conflict between East and West Pakistan developed in March, the Dacca offices of the two government organisations directly involved in relief efforts were closed for at least two weeks, first by a general strike and then by a ban on government work in East Pakistan by the Awami League. With this increase in tension, foreign personnel were evacuated over fears of violence. Relief work continued in the field, but long-term planning was curtailed.[60] This conflict widened into the Bangladesh Liberation War in December and concluded with the creation of Bangladesh. This was one of the first times that a natural event helped trigger a civil war.[61]

Operation Searchlight

Location of Bengali and Pakistani military units during Operation Searchlight, March 1971

A planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army – codenamed Operation Searchlight – started on 25 March 1971 to curb the Bengali independence movement[26] by taking control of the major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military,[62] within one month. The Pakistani state claimed to justify starting Operation Searchlight on the basis of anti-Bihari violence by Bengalis in early March.[63]

Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from East Pakistan.[64]

The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid-May. The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in the same year. Bangladeshi media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly, from 5,000–35,000 in Dacca, and 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole,[65] although independent researchers, including the British Medical Journal, have put forward the figure ranging from between 125,000 and 505,000.[66] American political scientist Rudolph Rummel puts total deaths at 1.5 million.[67] The atrocities have been referred to as acts of genocide.[68]

According to the Asia Times,[69]

At a meeting of the military top brass, Yahya Khan declared: "Kill 3 million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands." Accordingly, on the night of 25 March, the Pakistani Army launched Operation Searchlight to "crush" Bengali resistance in which Bengali members of military services were disarmed and killed, students and the intelligentsia systematically liquidated and able-bodied Bengali males just picked up and gunned down.

Although the violence focused on the provincial capital, Dacca, it also affected all parts of East Pakistan. Residential halls of the University of Dacca were particularly targeted. The only Hindu residential hall – Jagannath Hall – was destroyed by the Pakistani armed forces, and an estimated 600 to 700 of its residents were murdered. The Pakistani army denied any cold blooded killings at the university, though the Hamoodur Rahman Commission in Pakistan concluded that overwhelming force was used at the university. This fact, and the massacre at Jagannath Hall and nearby student dormitories of Dacca University, are corroborated by a videotape secretly filmed by Professor Nurul Ula of the East Pakistan University of Engineering and Technology, whose residence was directly opposite the student dormitories.[70]

The scale of the atrocities was first made clear in the West when Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani journalist who had been sent to the province by the military authorities to write a story favourable to Pakistan's actions, instead fled to the United Kingdom and, on 13 June 1971, published an article in The Sunday Times describing the systematic killings by the military. The BBC wrote: "There is little doubt that Mascarenhas' reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role", with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself stating that Mascarenhas' article has led her "to prepare the ground for India's armed intervention".[71]

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistani Army. Yahya Khan appointed Brigadier (later General) Rahimuddin Khan to preside over a special tribunal prosecuting Rahman with multiple charges. The tribunal's sentence was never made public, but Yahya caused the verdict to be held in abeyance in any case. Other Awami League leaders were arrested as well, while a few fled Dacca to avoid arrest. The Awami League was banned by General Yahya Khan.[72]

Declaration of independence

Following the Pakistan Army's brutal Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the Independence of Bangladesh and called for nationwide resistance on 26 March midnight, which led the Bangladesh Liberation War to officially start within hours.

The violence unleashed by the Pakistani forces on 25 March 1971 proved the last straw to the efforts to negotiate a settlement. Following these incidents, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed an official declaration that read:

Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night, West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dacca. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between E.P.R. and Police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pakistan on the other, are going on. The Bengalis are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May Allah aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla [May Bangladesh be victorious].

Sheikh Mujib also called upon the people to resist the occupation forces through a radio message. Rahman was arrested on the night of 25–26 March 1971 at about 1:30 am (as per Radio Pakistan's news on 29 March 1971).

An iconic poster by Quamrul Hassan on General Yahya Khan, representing the Pakistani military junta as demons.[73]

A telegram containing the text of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration reached some students in Chittagong. The message was translated to Bengali by Dr. Manjula Anwar. The students failed to secure permission from higher authorities to broadcast the message from the nearby Agrabad Station of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. However, the message was read several times by the independent Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro Radio established by some rebel Bangali Radio workers in Kalurghat. Major Ziaur Rahman was requested to provide security of the station and he also read the Declaration on 27 March 1971.[74] Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast announcement of the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

This is Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, at the direction of Bangobondhu Mujibur Rahman, hereby declare that Independent People's Republic of Bangladesh has been established. At his direction, I have taken the command as the temporary Head of the Republic. In the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I call upon all Bengalees to rise against the attack by the West Pakistani Army. We shall fight to the last to free our motherland. Victory is, by the Grace of Allah, ours. Joy Bangla.[75]

The Kalurghat Radio Station's transmission capability was limited, but the message was picked up by a Japanese ship in the Bay of Bengal. It was then re-transmitted by Radio Australia[76] and later by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

M. A. Hannan, an Awami League leader from Chittagong, is said to have made the first announcement of the declaration of independence over the radio on 26 March 1971.[77]

26 March 1971 is considered the official Independence Day of Bangladesh, and the name Bangladesh was in effect henceforth. In July 1971, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi openly referred to the former East Pakistan as Bangladesh.[78] Some Pakistani and Indian officials continued to use the name "East Pakistan" until 16 December 1971.

Liberation war


At first, resistance was spontaneous and disorganised, and was not expected to be prolonged.[79] However, when the Pakistani Army cracked down upon the population, resistance grew. The Mukti Bahini became increasingly active. The Pakistani military sought to quell them, but increasing numbers of Bengali soldiers defected to this underground "Bangladesh army". These Bengali units slowly merged into the Mukti Bahini and bolstered their weaponry with supplies from India. Pakistan responded by airlifting in two infantry divisions and reorganising their forces. They also raised paramilitary forces of Razakars, Al-Badrs and Al-Shams (who were mostly members of the Muslim League and other Islamist groups), as well as other Bengalis who opposed independence, and Bihari Muslims who had settled during the time of partition.

On 17 April 1971, a provisional government was formed in Meherpur District in western Bangladesh bordering India with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was in prison in Pakistan, as President, Syed Nazrul Islam as Acting President, Tajuddin Ahmad as Prime Minister, and General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani as Commander-in-Chief, Bangladesh Forces. As fighting grew between the occupation army and the Bengali Mukti Bahini, an estimated 10 million Bengalis sought refuge in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.[80]


The eleven sectors during the Bangladesh Liberation War
Advertisement for former Beatle George Harrison's "Bangla Desh" single, released in July 1971 to raise international awareness and funds for the millions of Bangladeshi refugees.

Bangladesh forces command was set up on 11 July, with Col. M. A. G. Osmani as commander-in-chief (C-in-C) with the status of Cabinet Minister, Lt. Col., Abdur Rabb as chief of Staff (COS), Group Captain A K Khandker as Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) and Major A R Chowdhury as Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS).

General Osmani had differences of opinion with the Indian leadership regarding the role of the Mukti Bahini in the conflict. Indian leadership initially envisioned Bengali forces to be trained into a small elite guerrilla force of 8,000 members, led by the surviving East Bengal Regiment soldiers operating in small cells around Bangladesh to facilitate the eventual Indian intervention,[81] but with the Bangladesh government in exile, General Osmani favoured a different strategy:[82][83]

  • Bengali conventional forces would occupy lodgment areas inside Bangladesh and then the Bangladesh government would request international diplomatic recognition and intervention. Initially Mymensingh was picked for this operation, but Gen. Osmani later settled on Sylhet.
  • Sending the maximum number to guerrillas inside Bangladesh as soon as possible with the following objectives:[84][85]
    • Increasing Pakistani casualties through raids and ambush.
    • Cripple economic activity by hitting power stations, railway lines, storage depots and communication networks.
    • Destroy Pakistan army mobility by blowing up bridges/culverts, fuel depots, trains and river crafts.
    • The strategic objective was to make the Pakistanis spread their forces inside the province, so attacks could be made on isolated Pakistani detachments.

Bangladesh was divided into eleven sectors in July,[86] each with a commander chosen from defected officers of the Pakistani army who joined the Mukti Bahini to conduct guerrilla operations and train fighters. Most of their training camps were situated near the border area and were operated with assistance from India. The 10th Sector was directly placed under the Commander in Chief (C-in-C) General M. A. G. Osmani and included the Naval Commandos and C-in-C's special force.[87] Three brigades (11 Battalions) were raised for conventional warfare; a large guerrilla force (estimated at 100,000) was trained.[88]

Three brigades (eight infantry battalions and three artillery batteries) were put into action between July and September.[89] During June and July, Mukti Bahini had regrouped across the border with Indian aid through Operation Jackpot and began sending 2000–5000 guerrillas across the border,[90] the so-called Monsoon Offensive, which for various reasons (lack of proper training, supply shortage, lack of a proper support network inside Bangladesh) failed to achieve its objectives.[91][92][93] Bengali regular forces also attacked BOPs in Mymensingh, Comilla and Sylhet, but the results were mixed. Pakistani authorities concluded that they had successfully contained the Monsoon Offensive, which proved a near-accurate observation.[94][95]

Guerrilla operations, which slackened during the training phase, picked up after August. Economic and military targets in Dacca were attacked. The major success story was Operation Jackpot, in which naval commandos mined and blew up berthed ships in Chittagong, Mongla, Narayanganj and Chandpur on 15 August 1971.[96][97]


Major battles

Bangladeshi conventional forces attacked border outposts. Kamalpur, Belonia and the Battle of Boyra are a few examples. 90 out of 370 BOPs fell to Bengali forces. Guerrilla attacks intensified, as did Pakistani and Razakar reprisals on civilian populations. Pakistani forces were reinforced by eight battalions from West Pakistan. The Bangladeshi independence fighters even managed to temporarily capture airstrips at Lalmonirhat and .[2] Both of these were used for flying in supplies and arms from India. Pakistan sent another five battalions from West Pakistan as reinforcements.

Indian involvement

Illustration showing military units and troop movements during the war

All unprejudiced persons objectively surveying the grim events in Bangladesh since March 25 have recognised the revolt of 75 million people, a people who were forced to the conclusion that neither their life, nor their liberty, to say nothing of the possibility of the pursuit of happiness, was available to them.

— Indira Gandhi, Letter to Richard Nixon, 15 December 1971
Allied Indian T-55 tanks on their way to Dacca

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had concluded that instead of taking in millions of refugees, India would be economically better off going to war against Pakistan.[98] As early as 28 April 1971, the Indian Cabinet had asked General Manekshaw (Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee) to "Go into East Pakistan".[99] Hostile relations in the past between India and Pakistan added to India's decision to intervene in Pakistan's civil war. As a result, the Indian government decided to support the creation of a separate state for ethnic Bengalis by supporting the Mukti Bahini. RAW helped to organise, train and arm these insurgents. Consequently, the Mukti Bahini succeeded in harassing Pakistani military in East Pakistan, thus creating conditions conducive for a full-scale Indian military intervention in early December.[98]

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched a pre-emptive strike on Indian Air Force bases on 3 December 1971. The attack was modelled on the Israeli Air Force's Operation Focus during the Six-Day War, and intended to neutralise the Indian Air Force planes on the ground. The strike was seen by India as an open act of unprovoked aggression, which marked the official start of the Indo-Pakistani War. As a response to the attack, both India and Pakistan formally acknowledged the "existence of a state of war between the two countries" even though neither government had formally issued a declaration of war.[100]

Three Indian corps were involved in the liberation of East Pakistan. They were supported by nearly three brigades of Mukti Bahini fighting alongside them, and many more who were fighting irregularly. That was far superior to the Pakistani army of three divisions.[101] The Indians quickly overran the country, selectively engaging or bypassing heavily defended strongholds. Pakistani forces were unable to effectively counter the Indian attack, as they had been deployed in small units around the border to counter the guerrilla attacks by the Mukti Bahini.[102] Unable to defend Dacca, the Pakistanis surrendered on 16 December 1971.

Air and naval war

The Indian Air Force carried out several sorties against Pakistan, and within a week, IAF aircraft dominated the skies of East Pakistan. It achieved near-total air supremacy by the end of the first week, as the entire Pakistani air contingent in the east, PAF No.14 Squadron, was grounded because of Indian and Bangladesh airstrikes at Tejgaon, Kurmitolla, Lal Munir Hat and Shamsher Nagar. Sea Hawks from the carrier INS Vikrant also struck Chittagong, Barisal and Cox's Bazar, destroying the eastern wing of the Pakistan Navy and effectively blockading the East Pakistan ports, thereby cutting off any escape routes for the stranded Pakistani soldiers. The nascent Bangladesh Navy (comprising officers and sailors who defected from the Pakistani Navy) aided the Indians in the marine warfare, carrying out attacks, most notably Operation Jackpot.[103]

Surrender and aftermath

Signing of Pakistani Instrument of Surrender by Pakistan's Lt.Gen. A. A. K. Niazi in the presence of Indian military officers in Dhaka on 16 Dec' 1971

On 16 December 1971, Lt. Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, CO of Pakistan Army forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender. At the time of surrender only a few countries had provided diplomatic recognition to the new nation. Over 93,000 Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian forces and Bangladesh Liberation forces, making it the largest surrender since World War II,[9][104] although the Pakistani Army had fought gallantly according to Indian Army Chief Sam Manekshaw.[105] Bangladesh sought admission in the UN with most voting in its favour, but China vetoed this as Pakistan was its key ally.[106] The United States, also a key ally of Pakistan, was one of the last nations to accord Bangladesh recognition.[107] To ensure a smooth transition, in 1972 the Simla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan. The treaty ensured that Pakistan recognised the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani PoWs. India treated all the PoWs in strict accordance with the Geneva Convention, rule 1925.[108] It released more than 93,000 Pakistani PoWs in five months.[9] Further, as a gesture of goodwill, nearly 200 soldiers who were sought for war crimes by Bengalis were also pardoned by India. The accord also gave back 13,000 km2 (5,019 sq mi) of land that Indian troops had seized in West Pakistan during the war, though India retained a few strategic areas;[109] most notably Kargil (which would in turn again be the focal point for a war between the two nations in 1999). This was done as a measure of promoting "lasting peace" and was acknowledged by many observers as a sign of maturity by India. However, some in India[110] felt that the treaty had been too lenient to Bhutto, who had pleaded for leniency, arguing that the fragile democracy in Pakistan would crumble if the accord was perceived as being overly harsh by Pakistanis.

Reaction in West Pakistan to the war

Reaction to the defeat and dismemberment of half the nation was a shocking loss to top military and civilians alike. Few had expected that they would lose the formal war in under a fortnight, and there was also unsettlement over what was perceived as a meek surrender of the army in East Pakistan. Yahya Khan's dictatorship collapsed and gave way to Bhutto, who took the opportunity to rise to power. General Niazi, who surrendered along with 93,000 troops, was viewed with suspicion and contempt upon his return to Pakistan. He was shunned and branded a traitor. The war also exposed the shortcomings of Pakistan's declared strategic doctrine that the "defence of East Pakistan lay in West Pakistan".[111][112]


Memorial for freedom fighters

During the war there were widespread killings and other atrocities – including the displacement of civilians in Bangladesh (East Pakistan at the time) and widespread violations of human rights began with the start of Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971. Members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat e Islami killed an estimated 300,000[71] to 3,000,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape.[113][114][115] During the war, a fatwa in Pakistan declared that the Bengali freedom fighters were Hindus and that their women could be taken as "the booty of war".[116]

Rayerbazar killing field photographed immediately after the war, showing dead bodies of intellectuals (image courtesy: Rashid Talukder, 1971)

A large section of the intellectual community of Bangladesh were murdered, mostly by the Al-Shams and Al-Badr forces,[117] at the instruction of the Pakistani Army.[118] Just two days before the surrender, on 14 December 1971, Pakistan Army and Razakar militia (local collaborators) picked up at least 100 physicians, professors, writers and engineers in Dacca, and murdered them, leaving the dead bodies in a mass grave.[119]

Many mass graves have been discovered in Bangladesh.[120] The first night of war on Bengalis, which is documented in telegrams from the American Consulate in Dacca to the United States State Department, saw indiscriminate killings of students of Dacca University and other civilians.[121] Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the war; the exact numbers are not known and are a subject of debate. The widespread rape of Bangladeshi women led to birth of thousands of war babies.[122][123][124] The Pakistan Army also kept numerous Bengali women as sex-slaves inside the Dacca Cantonment. Most of the girls were captured from Dacca University and private homes.[125] There was significant sectarian violence not only perpetrated and encouraged by the Pakistani army,[126] but also by Bengali nationalists against non-Bengali minorities, especially Biharis.[127] In June 1971, Bihari representatives stated that 500,000 Biharis were killed by Bengalis.[128] R.J. Rummel gives a prudent estimate of 150,000 killed.[129]

On 16 December 2002, the George Washington University's National Security Archive published a collection of declassified documents, consisting mostly of communications between US embassy officials and United States Information Service centres in Dacca and India, and officials in Washington, D.C.[121] These documents show that US officials working in diplomatic institutions within Bangladesh used the terms "selective genocide"[130] and "genocide" (see The Blood Telegram) for information on events they had knowledge of at the time. Genocide is the term that is still used to describe the event in almost every major publication and newspaper in Bangladesh,[131][132] although in Pakistan, the accusations against Pakistani forces continue to be disputed.

Foreign reaction

French minister Andre Malraux vowed to fight alongside the Mukti Bahini in the Liberation War.[133][134]

Following Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration of independence in March 1971, a worldwide campaign was undertaken by the Provisional Government of Bangladesh to drum up political support for the independence of East Pakistan as well as humanitarian support for the Bengali people.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi provided extensive diplomatic and political support to the Bangladesh movement. She toured many countries in a bid to create awareness of the Pakistani atrocities against Bengalis. This effort was to prove vital later during the war, in framing the world's context of the war and to justify military action by India.[135] Also, following Pakistan's defeat, it ensured prompt recognition of the newly independent state of Bangladesh.

United Nations

Though the United Nations condemned the human rights violations during and following Operation Searchlight, it failed to defuse the situation politically before the start of the war.

Following India's entry into the war, Pakistan, fearing certain defeat, made urgent appeals to the United Nations to intervene and force India to agree to a ceasefire. The UN Security Council assembled on 4 December 1971 to discuss the hostilities in South Asia. After lengthy discussions on 7 December, the United States made a resolution for "immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of troops". While supported by the majority, the USSR vetoed the resolution twice. In light of the Pakistani atrocities against Bengalis, the United Kingdom and France abstained on the resolution.[100][136]

On 12 December, with Pakistan facing imminent defeat, the United States requested that the Security Council be reconvened. Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was rushed to New York City to make the case for a resolution on the cease fire. The council continued deliberations for four days. By the time proposals were finalised, Pakistan's forces in the East had surrendered and the war had ended, making the measures merely academic. Bhutto, frustrated by the failure of the resolution and the inaction of the United Nations, ripped up his speech and left the council.[136]

Most UN member nations were quick to recognise Bangladesh within months of its independence.[135]


As the Bangladesh Liberation War approached the defeat of the Pakistan Army, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan became the first state in the world to recognise the newly independent country on 6 December 1971.[137] Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh visited Bhutan to attend the coronation of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King of Bhutan in June 1974.


Senator Ted Kennedy led US congressional support for Bangladeshi independence

The US government stood by its old ally Pakistan in terms of diplomacy and military threats.[138] US President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger feared Soviet expansion into South and Southeast Asia. Pakistan was a close ally of the People's Republic of China, with whom Nixon had been negotiating a rapprochement and which he intended to visit in February 1972. Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would mean total Soviet domination of the region, and that it would seriously undermine the global position of the United States and the regional position of America's new tacit ally, China. To demonstrate to China the bona fides of the United States as an ally, and in direct violation of the US Congress-imposed sanctions on Pakistan, Nixon sent military supplies to Pakistan and routed them through Jordan and Iran,[139] while also encouraging China to increase its arms supplies to Pakistan. The Nixon administration also ignored reports it received of the genocidal activities of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, most notably the Blood telegram.[140]

The Nixon administration was widely criticised for its close ties with the military junta led by General Yahya Khan. American diplomats in East Pakistan expressed profound dissent in the Blood Telegram.

Nixon denied getting involved in the situation, saying that it was an internal matter of Pakistan, but when Pakistan's defeat seemed certain, Nixon sent the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal,[141] a move deemed by the Indians as a nuclear threat. Enterprise arrived on station on 11 December 1971. On 6 and 13 December, the Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok; they trailed US Task Force 74 in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972.[142][143][144]

The Soviet Union supported Bangladesh and Indian armies, as well as the Mukti Bahini during the war, recognising that the independence of Bangladesh would weaken the position of its rivals – the United States and China. It gave assurances to India that if a confrontation with the United States or China developed, the USSR would take countermeasures. This was enshrined in the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty signed in August 1971. The Soviets also sent a nuclear submarine to ward off the threat posed by USS Enterprise in the Indian Ocean.[145][146]

At the end of the war, the Warsaw Pact countries were among the first to recognise Bangladesh. The Soviet Union accorded recognition to Bangladesh on 25 January 1972.[147] The United States delayed recognition for some months, before according it on 8 April 1972.[148]


As a long-standing ally of Pakistan, the People's Republic of China reacted with alarm to the evolving situation in East Pakistan and the prospect of India invading West Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Believing that just such an Indian attack was imminent, Nixon encouraged China to mobilise its armed forces along its border with India to discourage it. The Chinese did not, however, respond to this encouragement, because unlike the 1962 Sino-Indian War when India was caught entirely unaware, this time the Indian Army was prepared and had deployed eight mountain divisions to the Sino-Indian border to guard against such an eventuality.[100] China instead threw its weight behind demands for an immediate ceasefire.

When Bangladesh applied for membership to the United Nations in 1972, China vetoed their application[149] because two United Nations resolutions regarding the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war and civilians had not yet been implemented.[150] China was also among the last countries to recognise independent Bangladesh, refusing to do so until 31 August 1975.[135][149]

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka saw the partition of Pakistan as an example for themselves and feared India might use its enhanced power against them in the future.[151]:7 Despite the left wing government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike following a neutral non-aligned foreign policy, Sri Lanka decided to help Pakistan in the war.[152][153] As Pakistani aircraft could not fly over Indian territory, they would have to take a longer route around India and so they stopped at Bandaranaike Airport in Sri Lanka where they were refuelled before flying to East Pakistan.[154]

Arab World

As many Arab countries were allied with both the United States and Pakistan, it was easy for Kissinger to encourage them to participate. He sent letters to both, the King of Jordan and the King of Saudi Arabia. President Nixon gave permission for Jordan to send ten F-104s and promised to provide replacements.[139] According to author Martin Bowman, "Libyan F-5s were reportedly deployed to Sargodha AFB, perhaps as a potential training unit to prepare Pakistani pilots for an influx of more F-5s from Saudi Arabia."[155] Libyan dictator Gaddafi also personally directed a strongly worded letter to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi accusing her of aggression against Pakistan, which endeared him to all Pakistanis.[156] In addition to these three countries, an unidentified Middle Eastern ally also supplied Pakistan with Mirage IIIs. However, other countries such as Syria and Tunisia were against interfering describing it as an internal matter of Pakistan.[157]


During the course of the conflict, Iran also stood with Pakistan politically and diplomatically.[158]:78–79 It was concerned with the imminent break-up of Pakistan which, it feared, would have caused the state to fractionalise into small pieces, ultimately resulting in Iran's encirclement by rivals. At the beginning of the conflict, Iran had helped Pakistan by sheltering PAF's fighter jets and providing it with free fuel to take part in the conflict, in an attempt to keep Pakistan's regional integrity united.[158]:80[verification needed] When Pakistan called for unilateral ceasefire and the surrender was announced, the Shah of Iran hastily responded by preparing the Iranian military to come up with contingency plans to forcefully invade Pakistan and annex its Balochistan province into its side of Balochistan, by any means necessary, before anybody else did it.[158]:79[verification needed]

In popular culture

See also



  1. ^ This war is known in Bangla as Muktijuddho or Shwadhinota Juddho.[12] This war is also called the Civil War in Pakistan[13]


  1. ^ http://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/5312/Instrument+of+Surrender+of+Pakistan+forces+in+Dacca "The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in –chief of the Indian and Bangladesh forces in the eastern theatre."
  2. ^ a b c d "India – Pakistan War, 1971; Introduction By Tom Cooper, with Khan Syed Shaiz Ali". Acig.org. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  3. ^ Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway By Owen Bennett-Jones, Lindsay Brown, John Mock, Sarina Singh, Pg 30
  4. ^ p. 442 Indian Army after Independence by KC Pravel: Lancer 1987 ISBN 81-7062-014-7
  5. ^ Thiranagama, Sharika; Kelly, Tobias, eds. (2012). Traitors : suspicion, intimacy, and the ethics of state-building. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812222371.
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  7. ^ a b c Figures from The Fall of Dacca by Jagjit Singh Aurora in The Illustrated Weekly of India dated 23 December 1973 quoted in Indian Army after Independence by KC Pravel: Lancer 1987 ISBN 81-7062-014-7
  8. ^ a b c "Notable battles in the 11 Sectors". Dhaka Tribune. 16 December 2013. Archived from the original on 19 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Khan, Shahnawaz (19 January 2005). "54 Indian PoWs of 1971 war still in Pakistan". Daily Times. Lahore. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  10. ^ Figure from Pakistani Prisoners of War in India by Col S.P. Salunke p.10 quoted in Indian Army after Independence by KC Pravel: Lancer 1987 (ISBN 81-7062-014-7)
  11. ^ Orton, Anna (2010). India's Borderland Disputes: China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Epitome Books. p. 117. ISBN 9789380297156.
  12. ^ Historical Dictionary of Bangladesh, Page 289
  13. ^ Moss, Peter (2005). Secondary Social Studies For Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press. p. 93. ISBN 9780195977042. OCLC 651126824.
  14. ^ Schneider, B.; Post, J.; Kindt, M. (2009). The World's Most Threatening Terrorist Networks and Criminal Gangs. Springer. p. 57. ISBN 9780230623293.
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Further reading

  • Ayoob, Mohammed and Subrahmanyam, K., The Liberation War, S. Chand and Co. pvt Ltd. New Delhi, 1972.
  • Ayub, Muhammad (2005). An Army, its Role and Rule: A History of the Pakistan Army from Independence to Kargil 1947–1999. Pittsburgh: RoseDog Books. ISBN 0-8059-9594-3.
  • Bass, Gary J. The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide. Vintage, 2014. ISBN 0307744620
  • Bhargava, G.S., Crush India or Pakistan's Death Wish, ISSD, New Delhi, 1972.
  • Bhattacharyya, S. K., Genocide in East Pakistan/Bangladesh: A Horror Story, A. Ghosh Publishers, 1988.
  • Blood, A. K. (2005). The cruel birth of Bangladesh: Memoirs of an American diplomat. Dhaka: University Press.
  • Brownmiller, Susan: Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Ballantine Books, 1993.
  • Choudhury, G. W. (April 1972). "Bangladesh: Why It Happened". International Affairs. Royal Institute of International Affairs. 48 (2): 242–249. doi:10.2307/2613440. ISSN 0020-5850. JSTOR 2613440.
  • Choudhury, G. W. (1994) [First published 1974]. The Last Days of United Pakistan. Dhaka: University Press. ISBN 978-984-05-1242-3.
  • Govt. of Bangladesh, Documents of the war of Independence, Vol 01-16, Ministry of Information.
  • Hitchens, Christopher, The Trials of Henry Kissinger, Verso (2001). ISBN 1-85984-631-9
  • Kanjilal, Kalidas, The Perishing Humanity, Sahitya Loke, Calcutta, 1976
  • Johnson, Rob, 'A Region in Turmoil' (New York and London, 2005)
  • Malik, Amita, The Year of the Vulture, Orient Longmans, New Delhi, 1972.
  • Matinuddin, General Kamal, Tragedy of Errors: East Pakistan Crisis, 1968–1971, Wajidalis, Lahore, Pakistan, 1994.
  • Mookherjee, Nayanika, A Lot of History: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, D. Phil thesis in Social Anthropology, SOAS, University of London, 2002.
  • National Security Archive, The Tilt: the U.S. and the South Asian Crisis of 1971
  • Quereshi, Major General Hakeem Arshad, The 1971 Indo-Pak War, A Soldiers Narrative, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Raghavan, Srinath, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh, Harvard Univ. Press, 2013.
  • Rummel, R.J., Death By Government, Transaction Publishers, 1997.
  • Salik, Siddiq, Witness to Surrender, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 1977.
  • Sisson, Richard & Rose, Leo, War and secession: Pakistan, India, and the creation of Bangladesh, University of California Press (Berkeley), 1990.
  • Stephen, Pierre, and Payne, Robert, Massacre, Macmillan, New York, (1973). ISBN 0-02-595240-4
  • Totten, Samuel et al., eds., Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views, Garland Reference Library, 1997
  • US Department of State Office of the Historian, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971
  • Zaheer, Hasan: The separation of East Pakistan: The rise and realisation of Bengali Muslim nationalism, Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Raja, Dewan Mohammad Tasawwar (2010). O GENERAL MY GENERAL (Life and Works of General M. A. G. Osmani). The Osmani Memorial Trust, Dacca, Bangladesh. ISBN 978-984-8866-18-4.

External links

13 December 1988

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat gives a speech at a UN General Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, after United States authorities refused to grant him a visa to visit UN headquarters in New York.

Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat
ياسر عرفات
Flickr - Government Press Office (GPO) - THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATES FOR 1994 IN OSLO. (cropped).jpg
1st President of the Palestinian National Authority
In office
5 July 1994 – 11 November 2004
Prime Minister
Succeeded byRawhi Fattouh (interim)
3rd Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization
In office
4 February 1969 – 29 October 2004
Preceded byYahya Hammuda
Succeeded byMahmoud Abbas
Personal details
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini

4 / (1929-08-24)24 August 1929
Cairo, Egypt
Died11 November 2004(2004-11-11) (aged 75)
Clamart, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Political partyFatah
Spouse(s)Suha Arafat (1990–2004)
ProfessionCivil engineer

Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini (/ˈærəfæt/ ARR-ə-fat, also US: /ˈɑːrəfɑːt/ AR-ə-FAHT;[1] Arabic: محمد ياسر عبد الرحمن عبد الرؤوف عرفات القدوة الحسيني‎‎; 4[2][3] / 24[4][5] August 1929 – 11 November 2004), popularly known as Yasser Arafat (Arabic: ياسر عرفات‎, romanizedYāsir ʿArafāt) or by his kunya Abu Ammar (Arabic: أبو عمار‎, romanized: ʾAbū ʿAmmār), was a Palestinian political leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to 2004.[6] Ideologically an Arab nationalist, he was a founding member of the Fatah political party, which he led from 1959 until 2004.

Arafat was born to Palestinian parents in Cairo, Egypt, where he spent most of his youth and studied at the University of King Fuad I. While a student, he embraced Arab nationalist and anti-Zionist ideas. Opposed to the 1948 creation of the State of Israel, he fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Returning to Cairo, he served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students from 1952 to 1956. In the latter part of the 1950s he co-founded Fatah, a paramilitary organisation seeking the disestablishment of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state. Fatah operated within several Arab countries, from where it launched attacks on Israeli targets. In the latter part of the 1960s Arafat's profile grew; in 1967 he joined the PLO and in 1969 was elected chair of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Fatah's growing presence in Jordan resulted in military clashes with King Hussein's Jordanian government and in the early 1970s it relocated to Lebanon. There, Fatah assisted the Lebanese National Movement during the Lebanese Civil War and continued its attacks on Israel, resulting in it becoming a major target of Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions.

From 1983 to 1993, Arafat based himself in Tunisia, and began to shift his approach from open conflict with the Israelis to negotiation. In 1988, he acknowledged Israel's right to exist and sought a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In 1994 he returned to Palestine, settling in Gaza City and promoting self-governance for the Palestinian territories. He engaged in a series of negotiations with the Israeli government to end the conflict between it and the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit. In 1994 Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. At the time, Fatah's support among the Palestinians declined with the growth of Hamas and other militant rivals. In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat fell into a coma and died. While the cause of Arafat's death has remained the subject of speculation, investigations by Russian and French teams determined no foul play was involved.[7][8][9]

Arafat remains a controversial figure. The majority of the Palestinian people view him as a heroic freedom fighter and martyr who symbolized the national aspirations of his people. Conversely, most Israelis[10][11] came to regard him as an unrepentant terrorist,[12][13] while Palestinian rivals, including Islamists and several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government.

Early life

Birth and childhood

Arafat was born in Cairo, Egypt.[14] His father, Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, was a Palestinian from Gaza City, whose mother, Yasser's paternal grandmother, was Egyptian. Arafat's father battled in the Egyptian courts for 25 years to claim family land in Egypt as part of his inheritance but was unsuccessful.[15] He worked as a textile merchant in Cairo's religiously mixed Sakakini District. Arafat was the second-youngest of seven children and was, along with his younger brother Fathi, the only offspring born in Cairo. His mother, Zahwa Abul Saud, was from a Jerusalem-based family. She died from a kidney ailment in 1933, when Arafat was four years of age.[16]

Arafat's first visit to Jerusalem came when his father, unable to raise seven children alone, sent Yasser and his brother Fathi to their mother's family in the Moroccan Quarter of the Old City. They lived there with their uncle Salim Abul Saud for four years. In 1937, their father recalled them to be taken care of by their older sister, Inam. Arafat had a deteriorating relationship with his father; when he died in 1952, Arafat did not attend the funeral, nor did he visit his father's grave upon his return to Gaza. Arafat's sister Inam stated in an interview with Arafat's biographer, British historian Alan Hart, that Arafat was heavily beaten by his father for going to the Jewish quarter in Cairo and attending religious services. When she asked Arafat why he would not stop going, he responded by saying that he wanted to study Jewish mentality.[16]


In 1944, Arafat enrolled in the University of King Fuad I and graduated in 1950.[16] At university, he engaged Jews in discussion and read publications by Theodor Herzl and other prominent Zionists.[17] By 1946 he was an Arab nationalist and began procuring weapons to be smuggled into the former British Mandate of Palestine, for use by irregulars in the Arab Higher Committee and the Army of the Holy War militias.[18]

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Arafat left the University and, along with other Arabs, sought to enter Palestine to join Arab forces fighting against Israeli troops and the creation of the state of Israel. However, instead of joining the ranks of the Palestinian fedayeen, Arafat fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, although he did not join the organization. He took part in combat in the Gaza area (which was the main battleground of Egyptian forces during the conflict). In early 1949, the war was winding down in Israel's favor, and Arafat returned to Cairo from a lack of logistical support.[16]

After returning to the University, Arafat studied civil engineering and served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) from 1952 to 1956. During his first year as president of the union, the University was renamed Cairo University after a coup was carried out by the Free Officers Movement overthrowing King Farouk I. By that time, Arafat had graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and was called to duty to fight with Egyptian forces during the Suez Crisis; however, he never actually fought.[16] Later that year, at a conference in Prague, he donned a solid white keffiyeh–different from the fishnet-patterned one he adopted later in Kuwait, which was to become his emblem.[19]


In 1990, Arafat married Suha Tawil, a Palestinian Christian, when he was 61 and Suha, 27. Her mother introduced her to him in France, after which she worked as his secretary in Tunis.[20][21] Prior to their marriage, Arafat adopted fifty Palestinian war orphans.[22] During their marriage, Suha tried to leave Arafat on many occasions, but he forbade it.[23] Suha said she regrets the marriage, and given the choice again would not repeat it.[23][24] On 24 July 1995, Arafat's wife Suha gave birth to a daughter in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.[25] She was named Zahwa after Arafat's deceased mother.[21]


Arafat's full name was Mohammed Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini. Mohammed Abdel Rahman was his first name, Abdel Raouf was his father's name and Arafat his grandfather's. Al-Qudwa was the name of his tribe and al-Husseini was that of the clan to which the al-Qudwas belonged. The al-Husseini clan was based in Gaza and is not related to the well-known al-Husayni clan of Jerusalem.[16]

Since Arafat was raised in Cairo, the tradition of dropping the Mohammed or Ahmad portion of one's first name was common; notable Egyptians such as Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak did so. However, Arafat dropped Abdel Rahman and Abdel Raouf from his name as well. During the early 1950s, Arafat adopted the name Yasser, and in the early years of Arafat's guerrilla career, he assumed the nom de guerre of Abu Ammar. Both names are related to Ammar ibn Yasir, one of Muhammad's early companions. Although he dropped most of his inherited names, he retained Arafat due to its significance in Islam.[16]

Rise of Fatah

Founding of Fatah

Following the Suez Crisis in 1956, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser agreed to allow the United Nations Emergency Force to establish itself in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, precipitating the expulsion of all guerrilla or "fedayeen" forces there—including Arafat. Arafat originally attempted to obtain a visa to Canada and later Saudi Arabia, but was unsuccessful in both attempts.[16] In 1957, he applied for a visa to Kuwait (at the time a British protectorate) and was approved, based on his work in civil engineering. There he encountered two Palestinian friends: Salah Khalaf ("Abu Iyad") and Khalil al-Wazir ("Abu Jihad"), both official members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Arafat had met Abu Iyad while attending Cairo University and Abu Jihad in Gaza. Both would later become Arafat's top aides. Abu Iyad traveled with Arafat to Kuwait in late 1960; Abu Jihad, also working as a teacher, had already been living there since 1959.[26] After settling in Kuwait, Abu Iyad helped Arafat obtain a temporary job as a schoolteacher.[27]

As Arafat began to develop friendships with Palestinian refugees (some of whom he knew from his Cairo days), he and the others gradually founded the group that became known as Fatah. The exact date for the establishment of Fatah is unknown. In 1959, the group's existence was attested to in the pages of a Palestinian nationalist magazine, Filastununa Nida al-Hayat (Our Palestine, The Call of Life), which was written and edited by Abu Jihad.[28] FaTaH is a reverse acronym of the Arabic name Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini which translates into "The Palestinian National Liberation Movement".[27][29] "Fatah" is also a word that was used in early Islamic times to refer to "conquest."[27]

Fatah dedicated itself to the liberation of Palestine by an armed struggle carried out by Palestinians themselves. This differed from other Palestinian political and guerrilla organizations, most of which firmly believed in a united Arab response.[27][30] Arafat's organization never embraced the ideologies of the major Arab governments of the time, in contrast to other Palestinian factions, which often became satellites of nations such as Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and others.[31]

In accordance with his ideology, Arafat generally refused to accept donations to his organization from major Arab governments, in order to act independently of them. He did not want to alienate them, and sought their undivided support by avoiding ideological alliances. However, to establish the groundwork for Fatah's future financial support, he enlisted contributions from the many wealthy Palestinians working in Kuwait and other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, such as Qatar (where he met Mahmoud Abbas in 1961).[32] These businessmen and oil workers contributed generously to the Fatah organization. Arafat continued this process in other Arab countries, such as Libya and Syria.[27]

In 1962, Arafat and his closest companions migrated to Syria—a country sharing a border with Israel—which had recently seceded from its union with Egypt. Fatah had approximately three hundred members by this time, but none were fighters.[27] In Syria, he managed to recruit members by offering them higher incomes to enable his armed attacks against Israel. Fatah's manpower was incremented further after Arafat decided to offer new recruits much higher salaries than members of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was created by the Arab League in 1964. On 31 December, a squad from al-Assifa, Fatah's armed wing, attempted to infiltrate Israel, but they were intercepted and detained by Lebanese security forces. Several other raids with Fatah's poorly trained and badly-equipped fighters followed this incident. Some were successful, others failed in their missions. Arafat often led these incursions personally.[27]

Arafat was detained in Syria's Mezzeh Prison when a Palestinian Syrian Army officer, Yusef Urabi, was killed. Urabi had been chairing a meeting to ease tensions between Arafat and Palestinian Liberation Front leader Ahmed Jibril, but neither Arafat nor Jibril attended, delegating representatives to attend on their behalf. Urabi was killed during or after the meeting amid disputed circumstances. On the orders of Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, a close friend of Urabi, Arafat was subsequently arrested, found guilty by a three-man jury and sentenced to death. However, he and his colleagues were pardoned by President Salah Jadid shortly after the verdict.[33] The incident brought Assad and Arafat to unpleasant terms, which would surface later when Assad became President of Syria.[27]

Leader of the Palestinians

On 13 November 1966, Israel launched a major raid against the Jordanian administered West Bank town of as-Samu, in response to a Fatah-implemented roadside bomb attack which had killed three members of the Israeli security forces near the southern Green Line border. In the resulting skirmish, scores of Jordanian security forces were killed and 125 homes razed. This raid was one of several factors that led to the 1967 Six-Day War.[34]

The Six-Day war began when Israel launched air strikes against Egypt's air force on 5 June 1967. The war ended in an Arab defeat and Israel's occupation of several Arab territories, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although Nasser and his Arab allies had been defeated, Arafat and Fatah could claim a victory, in that the majority of Palestinians, who had up to that time tended to align and sympathize with individual Arab governments, now began to agree that a 'Palestinian' solution to their dilemma was indispensable.[35] Many primarily Palestinian political parties, including George Habash's Arab Nationalist Movement, Hajj Amin al-Husseini's Arab Higher Committee, the Islamic Liberation Front and several Syrian-backed groups, virtually crumbled after their sponsor governments' defeat. Barely a week after the defeat, Arafat crossed the Jordan River in disguise and entered the West Bank, where he set up recruitment centers in Hebron, the Jerusalem area and Nablus, and began attracting both fighters and financiers for his cause.[35]

At the same time, Nasser contacted Arafat through the former's adviser Mohammed Heikal and Arafat was declared by Nasser to be the "leader of the Palestinians."[36] In December 1967 Ahmad Shukeiri resigned his post as PLO Chairman. Yahya Hammuda took his place and invited Arafat to join the organization. Fatah was allocated 33 of 105 seats of the PLO Executive Committee while 57 seats were left for several other guerrilla factions.[35]

Battle of Karameh

Throughout 1968, Fatah and other Palestinian armed groups were the target of a major Israeli army operation in the Jordanian village of Karameh, where the Fatah headquarters—as well as a mid-sized Palestinian refugee camp—were located. The town's name is the Arabic word for 'dignity', which elevated its symbolism in the eyes of the Arab people, especially after the collective Arab defeat in 1967. The operation was in response to attacks, including rockets strikes from Fatah and other Palestinian militias, within the Israeli-occupied West Bank. According to Said Aburish, the government of Jordan and a number of Fatah commandos informed Arafat that large-scale Israeli military preparations for an attack on the town were underway, prompting fedayeen groups, such as George Habash's newly formed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Nayef Hawatmeh's breakaway organization the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), to withdraw their forces from the town. Though advised by a sympathetic Jordanian Army divisional commander to withdraw his men and headquarters to the nearby hills, Arafat refused,[35] stating, "We want to convince the world that there are those in the Arab world who will not withdraw or flee."[37] Aburish writes that it was on Arafat's orders that Fatah remained, and that the Jordanian Army agreed to back them if heavy fighting ensued.[35]

In response to persistent PLO raids against Israeli civilian targets, Israel attacked the town of Karameh, Jordan, the site of a major PLO camp. The goal of the invasion was to destroy Karameh camp and capture Yasser Arafat in reprisal for the attacks by the PLO against Israeli civilians, which culminated in an Israeli school bus hitting a mine in the Negev, killing two children.[38] However, plans for the two operations were prepared in 1967, one year before the bus attack.[39] The size of the Israeli forces entering Karameh made the Jordanians assume that Israel was also planning to occupy the eastern bank of the Jordan River, including the Balqa Governorate, to create a situation similar to the Golan Heights, which Israel had captured just 10 months prior, to be used a bargaining chip.[40][41] Israel assumed that the Jordanian Army would ignore the invasion, but the latter fought alongside the Palestinians, opening heavy fire that inflicted losses upon the Israeli forces.[42] This engagement marked the first known deployment of suicide bombers by Palestinian forces.[43] The Israelis were repelled at the end of a day's battle, having destroyed most of the Karameh camp and taken around 141 PLO prisoners.[44] Both sides declared victory. On a tactical level, the battle went in Israel's favor[45] and the destruction of the Karameh camp was achieved.[46] However, the relatively high casualties were a considerable surprise for the Israel Defense Forces and was stunning to the Israelis.[47] Although the Palestinians were not victorious on their own, King Hussein let the Palestinians take credit.[47][48][49] Some have alleged that Arafat himself was on the battlefield, but the details of his involvement are unclear. However, his allies–as well as Israeli intelligence–confirm that he urged his men throughout the battle to hold their ground and continue fighting.[50]

The battle was covered in detail by Time, and Arafat's face appeared on the cover of the 13 December 1968 issue, bringing his image to the world for the first time.[51] Amid the post-war environment, the profiles of Arafat and Fatah were raised by this important turning point, and he came to be regarded as a national hero who dared to confront Israel. With mass applause from the Arab world, financial donations increased significantly, and Fatah's weaponry and equipment improved. The group's numbers swelled as many young Arabs, including thousands of non-Palestinians, joined the ranks of Fatah.[52]

When the Palestinian National Council (PNC) convened in Cairo on 3 February 1969, Yahya Hammuda stepped down from his chairmanship of the PLO. Arafat was elected chairman on 4 February.[53][54] He became Commander-in-Chief of the Palestinian Revolutionary Forces two years later, and in 1973, became the head of the PLO's political department.[35]

Confrontation with Jordan

Arafat with Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader, Nayef Hawatmeh and Palestinian writer Kamal Nasser at press conference in Amman, 1970

In the late 1960s, tensions between Palestinians and the Jordanian government increased greatly; heavily armed Palestinian elements had created a virtual "state within a state" in Jordan, eventually controlling several strategic positions in that country. After their proclaimed victory in the Battle of Karameh, Fatah and other Palestinian militias began taking control of civil life in Jordan. They set up roadblocks, publicly humiliated Jordanian police forces, molested women and levied illegal taxes—all of which Arafat either condoned or ignored.[37] King Hussein considered this a growing threat to his kingdom's sovereignty and security, and attempted to disarm the militias. However, in order to avoid a military confrontation with opposition forces, Hussein dismissed several of his anti-PLO cabinet officials, including some of his own family members, and invited Arafat to become Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan. Arafat refused, citing his belief in the need for a Palestinian state with Palestinian leadership.[55]

Despite Hussein's intervention, militant actions in Jordan continued. On 15 September 1970, the PFLP (part of the PLO) hijacked four planes and landed three of them at Dawson's Field, located 30 miles (48 km) east of Amman. After the foreign national hostages were taken off the planes and moved away from them, three of the planes were blown up in front of international press, which took photos of the explosion. This tarnished Arafat's image in many western nations, including the United States, who held him responsible for controlling Palestinian factions that belonged to the PLO. Arafat, bowing to pressure from Arab governments, publicly condemned the hijackings and suspended the PFLP from any guerrilla actions for a few weeks. He had taken the same action after the PFLP attacked Athens Airport. The Jordanian government moved to regain control over its territory, and the next day, King Hussein declared martial law.[55] On the same day, Arafat became supreme commander of the PLA.[56]

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (center) mediating an agreement between Arafat and Jordanian King Hussein to end to the Black September conflict, during the emergency Arab League summit, September 1970

As the conflict raged, other Arab governments attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution. As part of this effort, Gamal Abdel Nasser led the first emergency Arab League summit in Cairo on 21 September. Arafat's speech drew sympathy from attending Arab leaders. Other heads of state took sides against Hussein, among them Muammar Gaddafi, who mocked him and his schizophrenic father King Talal. A ceasefire was agreed upon between the two sides, but Nasser died of a massive heart attack hours after the summit, and the conflict resumed shortly afterward.[55]

By 25 September, the Jordanian Army achieved dominance, and two days later Arafat and Hussein agreed to a ceasefire in Amman. The Jordanian Army inflicted heavy casualties on the Palestinians—including civilians—who suffered approximately 3,500 fatalities.[56] After repeated violations of the ceasefire from both the PLO and the Jordanian Army, Arafat called for King Hussein to be toppled. Responding to the threat, in June 1971, Hussein ordered his forces to oust all remaining Palestinian fighters in northern Jordan, which they accomplished. Arafat and a number of his forces, including two high-ranking commanders, Abu Iyad and Abu Jihad, were forced into the northern corner of Jordan. They relocated near the town of Jerash, near the border with Syria. With the help of Munib Masri, a pro-Palestinian Jordanian cabinet member, and Fahd al-Khomeimi, the Saudi ambassador to Jordan, Arafat managed to enter Syria with nearly two thousand of his fighters. However, due to the hostility of relations between Arafat and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (who had since ousted President Salah Jadid), the Palestinian fighters crossed the border into Lebanon to join PLO forces in that country, where they set up their new headquarters.[57]

Headquarters in Lebanon

Official recognition

Yasser Arafat visits East Germany in 1971; background: Brandenburg Gate

Because of Lebanon's weak central government, the PLO was able to operate virtually as an independent state. During this time in the 1970s, numerous leftist PLO groups took up arms against Israel, carrying out attacks against civilians as well as military targets within Israel and outside of it.

Two major incidents occurred in 1972. The Fatah subgroup Black September Organization hijacked Sabena Flight 572 en route to Vienna and forced it to land at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel.[58] The PFLP and the Japanese Red Army carried out a shooting rampage at the same airport, killing twenty-four civilians.[58][59] Israel later claimed that the assassination of PFLP spokesman Ghassan Kanafani was a response to the PFLP's involvement in masterminding the latter attack. Two days later, various PLO factions retaliated by bombing a bus station, killing eleven civilians.[58]

At the Munich Olympic Games, Black September kidnapped and killed eleven Israeli athletes.[60] A number of sources, including Mohammed Oudeh (Abu Daoud), one of the masterminds of the Munich massacre, and Benny Morris, a prominent Israeli historian, have stated that Black September was an armed branch of Fatah used for paramilitary operations. According to Abu Daoud's 1999 book, "Arafat was briefed on plans for the Munich hostage-taking."[61] The killings were internationally condemned. In 1973–74, Arafat closed Black September down, ordering the PLO to withdraw from acts of violence outside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[62]

In 1974, the PNC approved the Ten Point Program (drawn up by Arafat and his advisers), and proposed a compromise with the Israelis. It called for a Palestinian national authority over every part of "liberated" Palestinian territory,[63] which refers to areas captured by Arab forces in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (present-day West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip). This caused discontent among several of the PLO factions; the PFLP, DFLP and other parties formed a breakaway organization, the Rejectionist Front.[64]

Israel and the US have alleged also that Arafat was involved in the 1973 Khartoum diplomatic assassinations, in which five diplomats and five others were killed. A 1973 United States Department of State document, declassified in 2006, concluded "The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasser Arafat."[65][66] Arafat denied any involvement in the operation and insisted it was carried out independently by the Black September Organization. Israel claimed that Arafat was in ultimate control over these organizations and therefore had not abandoned terrorism.[67]

In addition, some circles within the US State Department viewed Arafat as an able diplomat and negotiator who could get support from many Arab governments at once. An example of that, we find in March 1973 that Arafat tried to arrange for a meeting between the President of Iraq and the Emir of Kuwait in order to resolve their disputes.[68]

Also in 1974, the PLO was declared the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and admitted to full membership of the Arab League at the Rabat Summit.[64] Arafat became the first representative of a non-governmental organization to address a plenary session of the UN General Assembly. In his United Nations address, Arafat condemned Zionism, but said, "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."[69] He wore a holster throughout his speech, although it did not contain a gun.[70][71] His speech increased international sympathy for the Palestinian cause.[64]

Following recognition, Arafat established relationships with a variety of world leaders, including Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin. Arafat was Amin's best man at his wedding in Uganda in 1975.[72][73]

Fatah involvement in Lebanese Civil War

Arafat in a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon, 1978

Although hesitant at first to take sides in the conflict, Arafat and Fatah played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War. Succumbing to pressure from PLO sub-groups such as the PFLP, DFLP and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), Arafat aligned the PLO with the Communist and Nasserist Lebanese National Movement (LNM). The LNM was led by Kamal Jumblatt, who had a friendly relationship with Arafat and other PLO leaders. Although originally aligned with Fatah, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad feared a loss of influence in Lebanon and switched sides. He sent his army, along with the Syrian-backed Palestinian factions of as-Sa'iqa and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmad Jibril to fight alongside right-wing Christian forces against the PLO and the LNM. The primary components of the Christian front were the Phalangists loyal to Bachir Gemayel and the Tigers Militia led by Dany Chamoun, a son of former President Camille Chamoun.[74]

Yasser Arafat with Gaddafi in 1977

In February 1975, a pro-Palestinian Lebanese MP, Maarouf Saad, was shot and killed, reportedly by the Lebanese Army.[75] His death from his wounds, the following month, and the massacre in April of 27 Palestinians and Lebanese travelling on a bus from Sabra and Shatila to the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp by Phalangist forces precipitated the Lebanese Civil War.[76] Arafat was reluctant to respond with force, but many other Fatah and PLO members felt otherwise.[37] For example, the DFLP carried out several attacks against the Lebanese Army. In 1976, an alliance of Christian militias with the backing of the Lebanese and Syrian armies besieged Tel al-Zaatar camp in east Beirut.[77][78] The PLO and LNM retaliated by attacking the town of Damour, a Phalangist stronghold where they massacred 684 people and wounded many more.[77][79] The Tel al-Zaatar camp fell to the Christians after a six-month siege in which thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed.[80] Arafat and Abu Jihad blamed themselves for not successfully organizing a rescue effort.[74]

Arafat with Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (center) and PFLP leader George Habash (right) in Syria, 1980

PLO cross-border raids against Israel grew during the late 1970s. One of the most severe—known as the Coastal Road massacre—occurred on 11 March 1978. A force of nearly a dozen Fatah fighters landed their boats near a major coastal road connecting the city of Haifa with Tel Aviv-Yafo. There they hijacked a bus and sprayed gunfire inside and at passing vehicles, killing thirty-seven civilians.[81] In response, the IDF launched Operation Litani three days later, with the goal of taking control of Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. The IDF achieved this goal, and Arafat withdrew PLO forces north into Beirut.[82]

After Israel withdrew from Lebanon, cross-border hostilities between PLO forces and Israel continued, though from August 1981 to May 1982, the PLO adopted an official policy of refraining from responding to provocations.[83] On 6 June 1982, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon to expel the PLO from southern Lebanon. Beirut was soon besieged and bombarded by the IDF;[74] Arafat declared the city to be the "Hanoi and Stalingrad of the Israeli army."[74] The Civil War's first phase ended and Arafat—who was commanding Fatah forces at Tel al-Zaatar—narrowly escaped with assistance from Saudi and Kuwaiti diplomats.[84] Towards the end of the siege, the US and European governments brokered an agreement guaranteeing safe passage for Arafat and the PLO—guarded by a multinational force of eight hundred US Marines supported by the US Navy—to exile in Tunis.[74]

Arafat returned to Lebanon a year after his eviction from Beirut, this time establishing himself in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. This time Arafat was expelled by a fellow Palestinian working under Hafez al-Assad. Arafat did not return to Lebanon after his second expulsion, though many Fatah fighters did.[74]

Headquarters in Tunisia

Arafat and Fatah's center for operations was based in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, until 1993. In 1985 Arafat narrowly survived an Israeli assassination attempt when Israeli Air Force F-15s bombed his Tunis headquarters as part of Operation Wooden Leg, leaving 73 people dead; Arafat had gone out jogging that morning.[85]

First Intifada

During the 1980s, Arafat received financial assistance from Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which allowed him to reconstruct the badly damaged PLO. This was particularly useful during the First Intifada in December 1987, which began as an uprising of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The word Intifada in Arabic is literally translated as "tremor"; however, it is generally defined as an uprising or revolt.[86]

The first stage of the Intifada began following an incident at the Erez checkpoint where four Palestinian residents of the Jabalya refugee camp were killed in a traffic accident involving an Israeli driver. Rumors spread that the deaths were a deliberate act of revenge for an Israeli shopper who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Gaza four days earlier. Mass rioting broke out, and within weeks, partly upon consistent requests by Abu Jihad, Arafat attempted to direct the uprising, which lasted until 1992–93. Abu Jihad had previously been assigned the responsibility of the Palestinian territories within the PLO command and, according to biographer Said Aburish, had "impressive knowledge of local conditions" in the Israeli-occupied territories. On 16 April 1988, as the Intifada was raging, Abu Jihad was assassinated in his Tunis household by an Israeli hit squad. Arafat had considered Abu Jihad as a PLO counterweight to local Palestinian leadership in the territories, and led a funeral procession for him in Damascus.[86]

The most common tactic used by Palestinians during the Intifada was throwing stones, molotov cocktails, and burning tires.[87] The local leadership in some West Bank towns commenced non-violent protests against Israeli occupation by engaging in tax resistance and other boycotts. Israel responded by confiscating large sums of money in house-to-house raids.[86][88] As the Intifada came to a close, new armed Palestinian groups—in particular Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—began targeting Israeli civilians with the new tactic of suicide bombings, and internal fighting amongst the Palestinians increased dramatically.[86]

Change in direction

In 1970, Arafat declared: "Our basic aim is to liberate the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. We are not concerned with what took place in June 1967 or in eliminating the consequences of the June war. The Palestinian revolution's basic concern is the uprooting of the Zionist entity from our land and liberating it."[89] However, in early 1976, at a meeting with US Senator Adlai Stevenson III, Arafat suggested that if Israel withdrew a "few kilometers" from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and transferred responsibility to the UN, Arafat could give "something to show his people before he could acknowledge Israel's right to exist".[90]

On 15 November 1988, the PLO proclaimed the independent State of Palestine. Though he had frequently been accused of and associated with terrorism,[91][92][93] in speeches on 13 and 14 December Arafat repudiated 'terrorism in all its forms, including state terrorism'. He accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Israel's right "to exist in peace and security" and[94][95] Arafat's statements were greeted with approval by the US administration, which had long insisted on these statements as a necessary starting point for official discussions between the US and the PLO. These remarks from Arafat indicated a shift away from one of the PLO's primary aims—the destruction of Israel (as entailed in the Palestinian National Covenant)–and toward the establishment of two separate entities: an Israeli state within the 1949 armistice lines, and an Arab state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On 2 April 1989, Arafat was elected by the Central Council of the Palestine National Council, the governing body of the PLO, to be the president of the proclaimed State of Palestine.[86]

Prior to the Gulf War in 1990–91, when the Intifada's intensity began to wear down, Arafat supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and opposed the US-led coalition attack on Iraq. He made this decision without the consent of other leading members of Fatah and the PLO. Arafat's top aide Abu Iyad vowed to stay neutral and opposed an alliance with Saddam; on 17 January 1991, Abu Iyad was assassinated by the Abu Nidal Organization. Arafat's decision also severed relations with Egypt and many of the oil-producing Arab states that supported the US-led coalition. Many in the US also used Arafat's position as a reason to disregard his claims to being a partner for peace. After the end of hostilities, many Arab states that backed the coalition cut off funds to the PLO and began providing financial support for the organization's rival Hamas and other Islamist groups.[86] Arafat narrowly escaped death again on 7 April 1992, when an Air Bissau aircraft he was a passenger on crash-landed in the Libyan Desert during a sandstorm. Two pilots and an engineer were killed; Arafat was bruised and shaken.[96]

Palestinian Authority and peace negotiations

Oslo Accords

Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Arafat during the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993
Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat receiving the Nobel Peace Prize following the Oslo Accords

In the early 1990s, Arafat and leading Fatah officials engaged the Israeli government in a series of secret talks and negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords.[67][97] The agreement called for the implementation of Palestinian self-rule in portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five-year period, along with an immediate halt to and gradual removal of Israeli settlements in those areas. The accords called for a Palestinian police force to be formed from local recruits and Palestinians abroad, to patrol areas of self-rule. Authority over the various fields of rule, including education and culture, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism, would be transferred to the Palestinian interim government. Both parties agreed also on forming a committee that would establish cooperation and coordination dealing with specific economic sectors, including utilities, industry, trade and communication.[98]

Prior to signing the accords, Arafat—as Chairman of the PLO and its official representative—signed two letters renouncing violence and officially recognizing Israel. In return, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO.[99] The following year, Arafat and Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Shimon Peres.[100] The Palestinian reaction was mixed. The Rejectionist Front of the PLO allied itself with Islamists in a common opposition against the agreements. It was rejected also by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan as well as by many Palestinian intellectuals and the local leadership of the Palestinian territories. However, the inhabitants of the territories generally accepted the agreements and Arafat's promise for peace and economic well-being.[101]

Establishing authority in the territories

In accordance with the terms of the Oslo agreement, Arafat was required to implement PLO authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He insisted that financial support was imperative to establishing this authority and needed it to secure the acceptance of the agreements by the Palestinians living in those areas. However, Arab states of the Persian Gulf—Arafat's usual source for financial backing—still refused to provide him and the PLO with any major donations for siding with Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.[101] Ahmed Qurei—a key Fatah negotiator during the negotiations in Oslo—publicly announced that the PLO was bankrupt.[102]

In 1994, Arafat moved to Gaza City, which was controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)—the provisional entity created by the Oslo Accords.[100] Arafat became the President and Prime Minister of the PNA, the Commander of the PLA and the Speaker of the PLC. In July, after the PNA was declared the official government of the Palestinians, the Basic Laws of the Palestinian National Authority was published,[103] in three different versions by the PLO. Arafat proceeded with creating a structure for the PNA. He established an executive committee or cabinet composed of twenty members. Arafat also replaced and assigned mayors and city councils for major cities such as Gaza and Nablus. He began subordinating non-governmental organizations that worked in education, health, and social affairs under his authority by replacing their elected leaders and directors with PNA officials loyal to him. He then appointed himself chairman of the Palestinian financial organization that was created by the World Bank to control most aid money towards helping the new Palestinian entity.[101]

Arafat established a Palestinian police force, named the Preventive Security Service (PSS), that became active on 13 May. It was mainly composed of PLA soldiers and foreign Palestinian volunteers. Arafat assigned Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub to head the PSS.[101] Amnesty International accused Arafat and the PNA leadership of failing to adequately investigate abuses by the PSS (including torture and unlawful killings) against political opponents and dissidents as well as the arrests of human rights activists.[104]

Throughout November and December 1995, Arafat toured dozens of Palestinian cities and towns that were evacuated by Israeli forces including Jenin, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Nablus, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm, declaring them "liberated". The PNA also gained control of the West Bank's postal service during this period.[105] On 20 January 1996, Arafat was elected president of the PNA, with an overwhelming 88.2 percent majority (the other candidate was charity organizer Samiha Khalil). However, because Hamas, the DFLP and other popular opposition movements chose to boycott the presidential elections, the choices were limited. Arafat's landslide victory guaranteed Fatah 51 of the 88 seats in the PLC. After Arafat was elected to the post of President of the PNA, he was often referred to as the Ra'is, (literally president in Arabic), although he spoke of himself as "the general".[106] In 1997, the PLC accused the executive branch of the PNA of financial mismanagement causing the resignation of four members of Arafat's cabinet. Arafat refused to resign his post.[107]

Other peace agreements

Arafat with PNA cabinet members Yasser Abed Rabbo (left) and Nabil Shaath (right) at a meeting in Copenhagen, 1999

In mid-1996, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel. Palestinian-Israeli relations grew even more hostile as a result of continued conflict.[108] Despite the Israel-PLO accord, Netanyahu opposed the idea of Palestinian statehood.[109] In 1998, US President Bill Clinton persuaded the two leaders to meet. The resulting Wye River Memorandum detailed the steps to be taken by the Israeli government and PNA to complete the peace process.[110]

Arafat with Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton at Camp David Summit, 2000

Arafat continued negotiations with Netanyahu's successor, Ehud Barak, at the Camp David 2000 Summit in July 2000. Due partly to his own politics (Barak was from the leftist Labor Party, whereas Netanyahu was from the rightist Likud Party) and partly due to insistence for compromise by President Clinton, Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state in 73 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian percentage of sovereignty would extend to 90 percent over a ten- to twenty-five-year period. Also included in the offer was the return of a small number of refugees and compensation for those not allowed to return. Palestinians would also have "custodianship" over the Temple Mount, sovereignty on all Islamic and Christian holy sites, and three of Jerusalem's four Old City quarters. Arafat rejected Barak's offer and refused to make an immediate counter-offer.[97] He told President Clinton that, "the Arab leader who would surrender Jerusalem is not born yet."[111]

After the September 2000 outbreak of the Second Intifada, negotiations continued at the Taba summit in January 2001; this time, Ehud Barak pulled out of the talks to campaign in the Israeli elections. In October and December 2001, suicide bombings by Palestinian militant groups increased and Israeli counter strikes intensified. Following the election of Ariel Sharon in February, the peace process took a steep downfall. Palestinian elections scheduled for January 2002 were postponed—the stated reason was an inability to campaign due to the emergency conditions imposed by the Intifada, as well as IDF incursions and restrictions on freedom of movement in the Palestinian territories. In the same month, Sharon ordered Arafat to be confined to his Mukata'a headquarters in Ramallah, following an attack in the Israeli city of Hadera;[111] US President George W. Bush supported Sharon's action, claiming that Arafat was "an obstacle to the peace."[112]

Political survival

Footage of Arafat speaking and meeting international leaders

Arafat's long personal and political survival was taken by most Western commentators as a sign of his mastery of asymmetric warfare and his skill as a tactician, given the extremely dangerous nature of politics of the Middle East and the frequency of assassinations.[113] Some commentators believe his survival was largely due to Israel's fear that he could become a martyr for the Palestinian cause if he were assassinated or even arrested by Israel.[114] Others believe that Israel refrained from taking action against Arafat because it feared Arafat less than Hamas and the other Islamist movements gaining support over Fatah. The complex and fragile web of relations between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states contributed also to Arafat's longevity as the leader of the Palestinians.[113]

Israel attempted to assassinate Arafat on a number of occasions, but has never used its own agents, preferring instead to "turn" Palestinians close to the intended target, usually using blackmail.[115] According to Alan Hart, the Mossad's specialty is poison.[115] According to Abu Iyad, two attempts were made on Arafat's life by the Israeli Mossad and the Military Directorate in 1970.[116] In 1976, Abu Sa'ed, a Palestinian agent working for the Mossad, was enlisted in a plot to put poison pellets that looked like grains of rice in Arafat's food. Abu Iyad explains that Abu Sa'ed confessed after he received the order to go ahead, explaining that he was unable to go through with the plot because, "He was first of all a Palestinian and his conscience wouldn't let him do it."[117] Arafat claimed in a 1988 interview with Time that because of his fear of assassination by the Israelis, he never slept in the same place two nights in a row.[118]

Relations with Hamas and other militant groups

Arafat's ability to adapt to new tactical and political situations was perhaps tested by the rise of the Hamas and PIJ organizations, Islamist groups espousing rejectionist policies with Israel. These groups often bombed non-military targets, such as malls and movie theaters, to increase the psychological damage and civilian casualties. In the 1990s, these groups seemed to threaten Arafat's capacity to hold together a unified nationalist organization with a goal of statehood.[113]

An attack carried out by Hamas militants in March 2002 killed 29 Israeli civilians celebrating Passover, including many senior citizens.[119] In response, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive into major West Bank cities. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, stated in September 2010 that Arafat had instructed Hamas to launch what he termed "military operations" against Israel in 2000 when Arafat felt that negotiations with Israel would not succeed.[120]

Some Israeli government officials opined in 2002 that the armed Fatah sub-group al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades commenced attacks towards Israel in order to compete with Hamas.[121] On 6 May 2002, the Israeli government released a report, based in part on documents, allegedly captured during the Israeli raid of Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, which allegedly included copies of papers signed by Arafat authorizing funding for al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades' activities. The report implicated Arafat in the "planning and execution of terror attacks".[122]

Attempts to marginalize

Persistent attempts by the Israeli government to identify another Palestinian leader to represent the Palestinian people failed. Arafat was enjoying the support of groups that, given his own history, would normally have been quite wary of dealing with or supporting him. Marwan Barghouti (a leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) emerged as a possible replacement during the Second Intifada, but Israel had him arrested for allegedly being involved in the killing of twenty-six civilians, and he was sentenced to five life terms.[123]

Arafat was finally allowed to leave his compound on 2 May 2002 after intense negotiations led to a settlement: six PFLP militants, including the organization's secretary-general Ahmad Sa'adat, wanted by Israel, who had been holed up with Arafat in his compound, would be transferred to international custody in Jericho. After the wanted men were handed over the siege was lifted.[124] With that, and a promise that he would issue a call to the Palestinians to halt attacks on Israelis, Arafat was released. He issued such a call on 8 May. On 19 September 2002, the IDF largely demolished the compound with armored bulldozers in order to isolate Arafat.[125][126][127] In March 2003, Arafat ceded his post as Prime Minister to Mahmoud Abbas amid pressures by the US.[128]

The Israeli security Cabinet on 11 September 2003 decided that "Israel will act to remove this obstacle [Arafat] in the manner, at the time, and in the ways that will be decided on separately".[129] Israeli Cabinet members and officials hinted on Arafat's death,[130][131][132] the Israeli military had begun making preparations for Arafat's possible expulsion in the near future,[133][134] and many feared for his life. Israeli peace activists of Gush Shalom, Knesset members and others went into the Presidential Compound prepared to serve as a human shield.[135][136] The compound remained under siege until Arafat's transfer to a French hospital, shortly before his death.

In 2004, President Bush dismissed Arafat as a negotiating partner, saying he had "failed as a leader", and accused him of undercutting Abbas when he was prime minister (Abbas resigned the same year he was given the position).[137] Arafat had a mixed relationship with the leaders of other Arab nations. His support from Arab leaders tended to increase whenever he was pressured by Israel; for example, when Israel declared in 2003 it had made the decision, in principle, to remove him from the Israeli-controlled West Bank.[111] In an interview with the Arabic news network Al Jazeera, Arafat responded to Ariel Sharon's suggestion that he be exiled from the Palestinian territories permanently, by stating, "Is it his [Sharon's] homeland or ours? We were planted here before the Prophet Abraham came, but it looks like they [Israelis] don't understand history or geography."[111]

Financial dealings

Under the Oslo Peace Accords, Israel undertook to deposit the VAT tax receipts on goods purchased by Palestinians into the Palestinian treasury. Until 2000, these monies were transferred directly to Arafat's personal accounts at Bank Leumi, in Tel Aviv. [138]

In August 2002, the Israeli Military Intelligence Chief alleged that Arafat's personal wealth was in the range of US$1.3 billion.[139] In 2003 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted an audit of the PNA and stated that Arafat had diverted $900 million in public funds to a special bank account controlled by himself and the PNA Chief Economic Financial adviser. However, the IMF did not claim that there were any improprieties, and it specifically stated that most of the funds had been used to invest in Palestinian assets, both internally and abroad.[140][141]

However, in 2003, a team of American accountants—hired by Arafat's own finance ministry—began examining Arafat's finances. In its conclusions, the team claimed that part of the Palestinian leader's wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion, with investments in companies like a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands. The head of the investigation stated that "although the money for the portfolio came from public funds like Palestinian taxes, virtually none of it was used for the Palestinian people; it was all controlled by Arafat. And none of these dealings were made public."[142] An investigation conducted by the General Accounting Office reported that Arafat and the PLO held over $10 billion in assets even at the time when he was publicly claiming bankruptcy.[143]

Although Arafat lived a modest lifestyle, Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, stated that Arafat's "walking-around money" financed a vast patronage system known as neopatrimonialism. According to Salam Fayyad—a former World Bank official whom Arafat appointed Finance Minister of the PNA in 2002—Arafat's commodity monopolies could accurately be seen as gouging his own people, "especially in Gaza which is poorer, which is something that is totally unacceptable and immoral." Fayyad claims that Arafat used $20 million from public funds to pay the leadership of the PNA security forces (the Preventive Security Service) alone.[142]

Fuad Shubaki, former financial aide to Arafat, told the Israeli security service Shin Bet that Arafat used several million dollars of aid money to buy weapons and support militant groups.[144] During Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, the Israel army recovered counterfeit money and documents from Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. The documents showed that, in 2001, Arafat personally approved payments to Tanzim militants.[145] The Palestinians claimed that the counterfeit money was confiscated from criminal elements.[146]

Illness and death

Unsuccessful Israeli assassination attempts

The Israeli government tried for decades to assassinate Arafat, including attempting to intercept and shoot down private aircraft and commercial airliners on which he was believed to be traveling.[147] The assassination was initially assigned to Caesarea, the Mossad unit in charge of Israel's numerous targeted killings. Shooting down a commercial airliner in international airspace over very deep water was thought to be preferable to make recovery of the wreckage, and hence investigation, more difficult.[147] Following Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon created a special task force code named "Salt Fish" headed by special ops experts Meir Dagan and Rafi Eitan to track Arafat's movements in Lebanon to kill him because Sharon saw Arafat as a "Jew murderer" and an important symbol, symbols being as important as body counts in a war against a terrorist organization. The Salt Fish task force orchestrated the bombing of buildings where Arafat and senior PLO leaders were believed to be staying. Later renamed "Operation Goldfish", Israeli operatives followed Israeli journalist Uri Avnery to a meeting with Arafat in an additional unsuccessful attempt to kill him. In 2001, Sharon as prime minister is believed to have made a commitment to cease attempts to assassinate Arafat. However following Israel's successful assassination in March 2004 of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a founder of the Hamas movement, Sharon stated in April 2004 that "this commitment of mine no longer exists."[147]

Failing health

The first reports of Arafat's failing health by his doctors for what his spokesman said was the flu came on 25 October 2004, after he vomited during a staff meeting. His condition deteriorated in the following days.[148] Following visits by other doctors, including teams from Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt—and agreement by Israel to allow him to travel—Arafat was taken to France on a French government jet, and was admitted to the Percy military hospital in Clamart, a suburb of Paris.[149][150] On 3 November, he had lapsed into a gradually deepening coma.[151]

Arafat was pronounced dead at 03:30 UTC on 11 November 2004 at the age of 75 of what French doctors called a massive hemorrhagic cerebrovascular accident (hemorrhagic stroke).[152][153] Initially, Arafat's medical records were withheld by senior Palestinian officials, and Arafat's wife refused an autopsy.[154] French doctors also said that Arafat suffered from a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, although it is inconclusive what brought about the condition.[155][156] When Arafat's death was announced, the Palestinian people went into a state of mourning, with Qur'anic mourning prayers emitted from mosque loudspeakers throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and tires burned in the streets.[157] The Palestinian Authority and refugee camps in Lebanon declared 40 days of mourning.[158][159]


Arafat's "temporary" tomb in Ramallah, 2004

On 11 November 2004, a French Army guard of honour held a brief ceremony for Arafat, with his coffin draped in a Palestinian flag. A military band played the French and Palestinian national anthems, and a Chopin funeral march.[160] French President Jacques Chirac stood alone beside Arafat's coffin for about ten minutes in a last show of respect for Arafat, whom he hailed as "a man of courage".[161] The next day, Arafat's body was flown from Paris aboard a French Air Force transport plane to Cairo, Egypt, for a brief military funeral there, attended by several heads of states, prime ministers and foreign ministers.[162] Egypt's top Muslim cleric Sayed Tantawi led mourning prayers preceding the funeral procession.[149]

Honour guard at attention over Yasser Arafat's tombstone in mausoleum, opened 10 November 2007 at the PNA presidential headquarters in Ramallah

Israel refused Arafat's wish to be buried near the Al-Aqsa Mosque or anywhere in Jerusalem, citing security concerns.[163] Israel also feared that his burial would strengthen Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem.[164] Following the Cairo procession, Arafat was "temporarily" buried within the Mukataa in Ramallah; tens of thousands of Palestinians attended the ceremony.[149] Arafat was buried in a stone, rather than wooden, coffin, and Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat said that Arafat would be reburied in East Jerusalem following the establishment of a Palestinian state. After Sheikh Taissir Tamimi discovered that Arafat was buried improperly and in a coffin—which is not in accordance with Islamic law—Arafat was reburied on the morning of 13 November at around 3:00 am.[165] On 10 November 2007, prior to the third anniversary of Arafat's death, President Mahmoud Abbas unveiled a mausoleum for Arafat near his tomb in commemoration of him.[166]

Theories about the cause of death

Arafat mausoleum

Numerous theories have appeared regarding Arafat's death, with the most prominent being poisoning[167][168][169][170] (possibly by polonium) and [171] AIDS-related illnesses,[172][173][174] as well as liver disease[175] or a platelet disorder.[176]

In September 2005, an Israeli-declared AIDS expert claimed that Arafat bore all the symptoms of AIDS based on obtained medical records.[172] But others, including Patrice Mangin of the University of Lausanne and The New York Times, disagreed with this claim, insisting that Arafat's record indicated that it was highly unlikely that the cause of his death was AIDS.[177][178] Arafat's personal doctor Ashraf al-Kurdi and aide Bassam Abu Sharif maintained that Arafat was poisoned,[167][168] possibly by thallium.[169] A senior Israeli physician concluded that Arafat died from food poisoning.[172] Both Israeli and Palestinian officials have denied claims that Arafat was poisoned.[172][179] Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath ruled out poisoning after talks with Arafat's French doctors.[179]

On 4 July 2012, Al Jazeera published the results of a nine-month investigation, which revealed that none of the causes of Arafat's death suggested in several rumors could be true. Tests carried out by a Swiss scientific experts found traces of polonium in quantities much higher than could occur naturally on Arafat's personal belongings.[177][180] On 12 October 2013, the British medical journal The Lancet published a peer-reviewed article by the Swiss experts about the analysis of the 38 samples of Arafat's clothes and belongings and 37 reference samples which were known to be polonium-free, suggesting that Arafat could have died of polonium poisoning.[181][182]

On 27 November 2012, three teams of international investigators, a French, a Swiss, and a Russian team, collected samples from Arafat's body and the surrounding soil in the mausoleum in Ramallah, to carry out an investigation independently from each other.[183][184][185]

On 6 November 2013, Al Jazeera reported that the Swiss forensic team had found levels of polonium in Arafat's ribs and pelvis 18 to 36 times the average. According to the Swiss expert team (including notably experts in radio-chemistry, radio-physics and legal medicine), on a probability scale ranging from one to six, death by polonium poisoning is around five.[182] While Al Jazeera reported that the scientist were "confident up to an 83 percent level" that polonium poisoning occurred, but Francois Bochud (the head of the Swiss team) clarified to Al Jazeera that this is not the case and that the scale does not allow a simple division like this; he stated only that the poisoning hypothesis by polonium is "reasonably supported".[186][187][188][182] Forensic Biologist Nathan Lents of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the report's results are consistent with a possible polonium poisoning, but "There's certainly not a smoking gun here." Derek Hill, a professor in radiological science at University College London who was not involved in the investigation, said "I would say it's clearly not overwhelming proof, and there is a risk of contamination (of the samples), but it is a pretty strong signal. ... It seems likely what they're doing is putting a very cautious interpretation of strong data."[189]

On 26 December 2013, a team of Russian scientists released a report saying they had found no trace of radioactive poisoning—a finding that comes after the French report found traces of the radioactive isotope polonium. Vladimir Uiba, the head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, said that Arafat died of natural causes and the agency had no plans to conduct further tests.[190] Unlike the Swiss report, the French and Russian reports were not made public, at the time.[182] The Swiss experts read the French and Russian reports and argued that the radiologic data measured by the other teams support their conclusions of a probable death by polonium poisoning.[182] In March 2015 a French prosecutor closed a 2012 French inquiry, stating that French experts had determined Arafat's death was of natural causes, and that the polonium and lead traces found were environmental.[191]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Arafat". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ The A to Z of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, P R. Kumaraswamy, page 26
  3. ^ "Yasser Arafat Mausoleum". Alluring World. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  4. ^ Arafat, a Political Biography, Alan Hart, page 67
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East & North Africa: A-C, Philip Mattar, page 269, quote: Arafat and his family have always insisted that he was born 4 August 1929. in his mother's family home in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, an Egyptian birth registration exists, suggesting that he was born in Egypt on 24 August 1929– His father had ...
  6. ^ Some sources use the term Chairman, rather than President; the Arabic word for both titles is the same. See President of the Palestinian National Authority for further information.
  7. ^ "Yasser Arafat: French rule out foul play in former Palestinian leader's death". The Guardian. 16 March 2015.
  8. ^ "France drops investigation into Arafat's death". Jerusalem Post. 2 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Yasser Arafat investigation: Russian probe finds death not caused by radiation". CBS News. 26 December 2013.
  10. ^ Major Richard D. Creed Jr., Eighteen Years In Lebanon And Two Intifadas: The Israeli Defense Force And The U.S. Army Operational Environment, Pickle Partners Publishing, 2014 p.53.
  11. ^ As'ad Ghanem Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement:Palestinian Politics after Arafat, Indiana University Press, 2010 p.259.
  12. ^ Kershner, Isabel (4 July 2012). "Palestinians May Exhume Arafat After Report of Poisoning". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  13. ^ Hockstader, Lee (11 November 2004). "A Dreamer Who Forced His Cause Onto World Stage". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  14. ^ Not certain; Disputed; Most sources including Tony Walker, Andrew Gowers, Alan Hart and Said K. Aburish indicate Cairo as Arafat's place of birth, but others list his birthplace as Jerusalem as well as Gaza. See here [1] and here [2] for more information. Some believe also that the Jerusalem birthplace might have been a little known rumor created by the KGB [3].
  15. ^ Bernadette Brexel (2003). Yasser Arafat. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 12.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 7–32. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  17. ^ "Yasser Arafat: Homeland a dream for Palestinian Authority Chief". CNN News. Cable News Network. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  18. ^ Rubenstein, Dany (1995). The Mystery of Arafat. New York: Steerforth Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-883642-10-5.
  19. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  20. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  21. ^ a b "Profile: Suha Arafat-Blonde, convent-educated and with a rumored penchant for designer suits, Suha Arafat made an unlikely wife for the leader of the Palestinian resistance". BBC News. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
  22. ^ "Milestones". Time. 19 December 1994.
  23. ^ a b "Arafat's widow tried to leave Palestinian leader 'hundreds of times'". 9 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Suha Arafat: I wish I'd never married him".
  25. ^ "Suha Arafat". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org.
  26. ^ Mattar, Phillip (12 November 2000). "Biography of Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad)". Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. Facts on File; 1st edition. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2007.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 33–67. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4.
  28. ^ Aburish, Said K. (1998). From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 33–67. ISBN 978-1-58234-049-4. Aburish says the date of Fatah's founding is unclear but claims in 1959 it was exposed by its magazine.
    Zeev Schiff, Raphael Rothstein (1972). Fedayeen; Guerillas Against Israel. McKay, p.58; Schiff and Rothstein claim Fatah was founded in 1959.
    Salah Khalaf and Khalil al-Wazir state Fatah's first formal meeting was in October 1959. See Anat N. Kurz (2005) Fatah and the Politics of Violence: The Institutionalization of a Popular Struggle. Brighton, Portland: Sussex Academic Press (Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies), pp. 29–30
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Further reading

External video
Booknotes interview with John and Janet Wallach on Arafat: In the Eyes of the Beholder, 23 December 1990, C-SPAN