Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas prays as honor guards salute, next to the coffin of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who died after contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during a ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 11, 2020. Photo: Palestinian President Office (PPO) / Handout via Reuters.

As the sun began to set over his adopted home of Jericho, veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was laid to rest on Wednesday after a memorial ceremony and funeral attended by hundreds.

“To all the Palestinian people, my father is also your father and the father of the Palestinian cause,” his daughter, Dr. Salam Erekat said by his graveside in the Jordan Valley, her voice breaking into tears.

A long-serving member of the nationalist party Fatah, Erekat — 65 at the time of his death — was secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and a confidant and adviser to its former leader Yasser Arafat and his successor, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

He announced a month ago he had contracted the coronavirus, and died on Tuesday after three weeks in a coma in an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem.

Erekat led the Palestinians in peace talks with Israel for many years until negotiations collapsed in 2014. In the final year of his life, he was the main public face of Palestinian opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan, which the Palestinians rejected as favoring Israel.

Erekat’s memorial took place on the anniversary of Arafat’s death in 2004, marked in a separate ceremony earlier in the day.

In Ramallah, a procession of Palestinian soldiers carried Erekat’s coffin through an outdoor plaza in Abbas’s presidential compound. A military honor guard laid a wreath over his coffin. Abbas and other senior officials waved goodbye as the body was driven to Jericho for burial.

A large crowd gathered outside Erekat’s Jericho home as his coffin was carried inside and his family privately bade him farewell.

Hundreds of mourners waving Palestinian flags and chanting “God is greatest” later joined in the funeral as he was buried in a palm tree-lined cemetery. Soldiers fired a rifle salute as a prayer was recited over the grave.

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