Poet Darwish to be laid to rest in Ramallah

( dpa ) - The famed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, considered by many to be a national icon, will be laid to rest in the city of Ramallah on the West Bank, where he lived in recent years.

Darwish died Saturday in a hospital in the US state of Texas, after undergoing heart surgery. He was 67.

Palestinian media said his body would be flown to Jordan and from there it would be taken to the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah declared three days of national mourning for the literary giant, who produced numerous volumes of works over his career, which included stints in various countries.

In Gaza, run by the Islamic Hamas movement, mourning events are being planned as well.

Darwish had been critical, in poems, of the violent events which led to the Hamas takeover of the enclave last year.

Speaking to members of Darwish's family in Israel, Abbas' representatives said the poet would be buried in Ramallah, near the cultural palace.

Ahmed Abd Rahman, an aid to Abbas, said Darwish's body would be moved to Jerusalem after a Palestinian state was formed, the Israeli Ynet Website reported.

This countered rumours which said Darwish would be buried in northern Israel.

Darwish was born in 1940 - though some give the date a year or two later - in what is now Israel. His Arab village was destroyed during the 1948 war and the displaced family moved to another town in Israel.

At the start of his career he worked in journalism and was a member of the Israeli Communist Party.

In the early 1970's Darwish left Israel and eventually joined up with the Palestine Liberation Organization in exile and spent time in Beirut and North Africa, along the way composing poems and what was to become the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.

Although he split with the PLO over the Oslo accords with Israel, Darwish returned to the West Bank and resided in Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this year, for the first time since going into exile, Darwish appeared in Israel, reading his poems to a large audience in Haifa.

Darwish was considered by many to be the Palestinian national poet, for his songs which spoke chiefly of the Palestinian plight and specifically that of the refugees.

A recent book of his from 2002, entitled "State of Siege," focused almost entirely on life in the Palestinian territories during the second Intifada or uprising.

His work was widely read in the Arab world in general, and his public readings drew large crowds. His books were also translated into many other languages, including Hebrew.

Darwish's Website, which opens with an audio recording of him reading one of his famed works, has not been updated in either English or Arabic since his death.

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