Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in East Jerusalem to mourn the death of leading Palestinian official Faisal al-Husseini who died of a heart attack in Kuwait on Thursday.
A Palestinian flag hung at half-mast over the Orient House, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Arab East Jerusalem headquarters and the office from where Husseini worked as the top Palestinian official for Jerusalem, a post which gave him ministerial status.
“It’s a great loss for the Arab people, for the Palestinian people and for the struggle for Jerusalem,” said Husseini’s bodyguard Wahid Shibani, as tears streamed down his cheeks. “I don’t know what I will do,” he said.
As news spread that 60-year-old Husseini had died, dozens of shocked Palestinians arrived at the Orient House to share their sorrow. Passages from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, were read over loud speakers.
Ibrahim al-Hindi, 101, carrying a walking stick, had come from the West Bank city of Ramallah to see Husseini and was shocked to hear the PLO official had died.
“I feel that I want to explode from inside, I can’t endure the fact he is dead,” said Hindi, who fought against Jewish troops with Husseini’s father in Palestine before Israel’s creation in 1948.
Abdel Qader Husseini, Husseini’s son, said his father would be buried at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound next to his father, a shrine that is a symbol of Palestinian yearning for an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
“They told us he died at night in his sleep. It seems it was a natural death,” the son said. “This is God’s will.”
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.
The fate of Jerusalem was one of the biggest stumbling blocks at Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for a final treaty which ended in deadlock last year.
Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin said that Israel had lost a partner, despite their disagreements.
“He was a tough negotiator, he was a nationalist. But being a nationalist did not mean that, in his view, that the preference was to hate Israelis,” Beilin said.