Palestinian leader heads to Germany for medical checkup

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Mohamed Nass - Cairo - JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Jordan by helicopter on Monday ahead of an official visit to Germany on which he will undergo a health exam, officials said.

His office did not provide any further details on the trip, which was not announced in advance. A Palestinian official said Abbas would undergo a “routine health check” in Germany. The official was not authorized to comment and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 85-year-old Abbas, a heavy smoker with a history of heart problems, has attended public events in recent days and there was no indication he was ill. He received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine last month.

But he has traveled abroad for medical treatment in recent years. In 2018, he visited a hospital in the United States after appearing weak in an address to the UN Security Council.

He underwent an emergency heart procedure in 2016 after suffering exhaustion and chest pains, but was given a clean bill of health and quickly discharged from the West Bank hospital.

Abbas has never chosen a successor and a number of senior members of his Fatah party are believed to be eyeing the position. Abbas took over as caretaker president following the death of the iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004.

Abbas was elected to a four-year term the following year but remained in office after his mandate expired. The Palestinians have not held elections since 2006, when the Islamic militant group Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.

That ignited a political crisis, culminating in Hamas’ seizure of power in Gaza the following year, leaving Abbas’ authority confined to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abbas has decreed parliamentary elections for next month and a presidential election in July. It’s unclear whether the votes will take place, however, due to the longstanding dispute with Hamas and growing schisms within Abbas’ Fatah party that could lead him to call them off.

The Palestinian leader’s popularity has plummeted in recent years as he has failed to make progress in achieving an independent state or mending ties with Hamas, and as he has presided over an increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority.

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