The ailing jihadist seems to be a hero in France. From the Times Online, :
YASSIR ARAFAT was being treated for serious blood disease in a military hospital near Paris last night after a flight that began with emotional farewells to the Palestinian leader as he ended nearly three years of confinement in his West Bank compound.
A French Air Force Falcon 50 jet flew Mr Arafat from Amman to Villacoublay, a suburban military VIP airfield, at the invitation of President Chirac, to undergo treatment at the Percy hospital, a modern facility at Clamart, in the southwestern outskirts.
“God willing, I will come back,” the visibly frail Mr Arafat, 75, told aides as he was laid on a stretcher inside the jet in Amman. However, with his apparently grave condition and Israel’s reluctance to let him return, Mr Arafat’s departure from Ramallah had the feel of the end to a 35-year era in which he symbolised the Palestinian cause.
Early in the day, as he was placed aboard a helicopter in the battle-scarred compound, whistles pierced the air, then gave way to chants of: “Our blood; Our souls; We sacrifice for you Abu Amar.” Bystanders, bodyguards and officials wept at the sight of the frail figure in a grey greatcoat and fur hat. Rooftops and high walls overlooking the yard were lined with hundreds of Palestinians anxious to catch one last glimpse of the revered leader.
At Clamart, about a hundred supporters watched from behind the security fence as a helicopter brought Mr Arafat, accompanied by his wife, Soha, 41, to the grounds of the heavily guarded hospital. The couple were reunited for the first time since 2001 when Mrs Arafat flew from Tunis to Ramallah on Thursday….
M Chirac, in Rome for the day, said he had no information on Mr Arafat’s condition and emphasised that France was providing hospitality purely in its tradition as a humanitarian haven. However, the French welcome underlined France’s policy of close support for Mr Arafat as a central figure in the Middle East despite his fall from grace in the eyes of other Western nations. On one of his many visits to Paris, Mr Arafat joked in 1997 that whenever he had a problem, he would “go and see Dr Chirac”. The policy has angered Israel, which has tried in vain to prevent French ministers from visiting Mr Arafat in Ramallah, where he was kept under virtual house arrest by the Israeli military.
M Chirac sent a warm message of support to him on Thursday, signing off by hand “with my heartfelt friendship”.
France has come to the aid of the Palestinians several times, notably in 1982, at the end of the Israeli siege of Beirut. French troops escorted Mr Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organisation fighters from refugee camps to the city”s docks where they boarded a UN ship for Tunis.