PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat has died at the age of 65 after contracting COVID-19,

Erekat was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October. Having undergone a lung transplant in 2017, he was at a particularly high risk for complications from the respiratory disease.

A top Fatah member and a close confidant of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, Erekat has been a high-profile member of the Palestinian leadership for decades, shaping much of the PA’s international policy.

Abbas publically mourned the death of Erekat, saying that the nation grieves deeply over the loss.

“The departure of our brother and friend, the great fighter, Dr. Saeb Erekat, represents a great loss for Palestine and our people, and we feel deeply saddened by his loss, especially in light of these difficult circumstances facing the Palestinian cause”, Abbas said, as quoted by the state-owned news agency WAFA.

Abbas praised Erekat’s prominent role in defending the Palestinian people and their interests in the international arena. He also conveyed his condolences to Erekat’s family and declared a three-day mourning over his death, with flags being flown at half-mast.