Palestinian leader Abbas headed to Germany for 'medical tests'

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas left for Germany on Monday for "routine medical tests" and to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, a source within his office told AFP.

Less than two months before the first Palestinian polls in 15 years, the 86-year-old Abbas left the presidential compound in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank via helicopter for Jordan, said the source.

He was to fly to Germany before returning on Thursday, the source added, requesting anonymity pending an official announcement.

Palestinian legislative elections are scheduled for May 22, with a presidential vote set for July 31.

Abbas, who was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in the last vote in 2005 following the death of Yasser Arafat, has not yet declared whether he intends to run again.

His secular Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, has submitted a list of candidates for the legislative polls.

Abbas, a heavy smoker, was hospitalised with pneumonia in 2018, fuelling speculation about a possible Palestinian succession plan.

His latest visit comes with Abbas and Fatah facing mounting political pressures.

In the legislative polls, Fatah is facing challenges from dissident factions including the Freedom list, led by a nephew of the late Arafat, Nasser al-Kidwa.

Freedom has been endorsed by Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader whom supporters have described as the Palestinian Mandela.

Barghouti is serving multiple life sentences in Israel for allegedly organising deadly attacks during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) from 2000-2005.

Abbas's former Gaza security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently in exile in Abu Dhabi, is also backing a list of challengers.

Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, an ex-World Bank official with a track record of fighting corruption, is supporting his own group.

The Palestinian election followed an agreement on vote procedures between Fatah and Hamas Islamists who control the Israeli-blockaded Gaza strip.

(AFP)