PARIS, France (CNN) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been in a coma since Wednesday night in the intensive care unit at a military hospital in Paris, a senior Palestinian aide told CNN.
Palestinian officials are very concerned for the 75-year-old leader who has been hospitalized since last week.
Palestinian officials have said that Arafat is suffering from a blood disorder, but they have repeatedly denied reports that he is facing leukemia.
After confining him to his Ramallah headquarters for more than two and a half years, Israel’s government allowed him to fly to Paris for medical treatment last week.
Doctors have been conducting tests on him since his arrival Friday.
On Wednesday, a source close to Arafat denied reports that the Palestinian leader’s condition has deteriorated sharply, but another official acknowledged that his condition remained “difficult.”
A Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, reported late Wednesday on its Web site that Arafat’s health had “seriously deteriorated” overnight.
Arafat arrived in Paris on Saturday after a team of doctors in the West Bank city of Ramallah said they had not been able to determine the cause of his illness.
Last week, after a call from Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel announced it would allow Arafat to go anywhere his doctors thought necessary and would allow him to return to his Ramallah compound.
Israel had confined Arafat there since 2002, accusing him of provoking suicide bombings and other violent acts in the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000, charges that Arafat denies.
In the past, Israel has said it could not guarantee Arafat’s safe return if he left his compound.
Qorei and former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas have assumed additional responsibilities during Arafat’s absence, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
Abbas, secretary-general of the executive committee of the PLO, is acting chairman of the PLO, and Qorei, deputy head of the national security council, is acting head of the security committee, Erakat said.
He said Arafat approved the changes before leaving for France.