Palestinian leader in hospital for 'routine' tests - spokesperson

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Richard Drew, AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Richard Drew, AP)

Ramallah – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesperson said on Saturday the 82-year-old leader has been hospitalised for a routine checkup and will be discharged in a matter of hours.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Abbas is undergoing regular examinations at a Ramallah hospital.

Abbas has suffered heart problems in the past, but his doctors have said he is fine. A year ago, Abbas underwent an emergency heart procedure after suffering exhaustion and chest pains. He went through a number of tests, including a cardiac catheterisation, a procedure that can detect and treat heart problems, but was given a clean bill of health.

Last month, Abbas dispelled rumours he had suffered a stroke.

Any health scare for Abbas heightens concerns over the uncertain leadership situation in the Palestinian territories – which are divided between two rival governments and where there is no succession plan for the ageing leader.

Abbas, who has no plans to step down, has ignored calls to appoint a successor, setting the stage for a bitter power struggle if he is incapacitated.

Abbas was elected president in 2005 for what was supposed to be a four-year term. But in 2007 the rival Hamas militant group seized control of the Gaza Strip, and Abbas has remained in power.

The Palestinians are now divided between two governments, Abbas' Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza. Attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed.

Abbas, who is a heavy smoker and is overweight, was treated years ago with prostate cancer and has had a stent inserted to treat artery blockage.

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