Palestinian leader Abbas went to Germany for “medical tests”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Germany on Monday for “routine medical examinations” and to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a source in his office told AFP.

Less than two months before the first Palestinian votes in 15 years, the 86-year-old Abbas left the presidential association in Ramallah on the occupied West Bank by helicopter to Jordan, the source said.

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

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

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

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

Abbas, a heavy smoker, was hospitalized with pneumonia in 2018, which led to speculation about a possible Palestinian succession plan.

His most recent visit comes with Abbas and Fatah facing growing political pressure.

In the legislative inquiries, Fatah faces challenges from various 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 several life sentences in Israel for organizing deadly attacks during the second Palestinian intifada (insurgency) from 2000-2005.

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

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank official with a history of fighting corruption, supports his own group.

The Palestinian elections followed an agreement on voting procedures between Fatah and Hamas Islamists controlling the Israeli-blocked Gaza Strip.