First Published: 2012-11-13

 

Palestinians begin work to open Arafat grave: Will truth come out?

 

Process of taking samples is expected to begin at end of month after French, Swiss delegations arrive on November 26.

 

Middle East Online

Arafat mystery grows

RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories) - The Palestinians on Tuesday began work to open the grave of iconic leader Yasser Arafat ahead of an exhumation of his body for a murder probe, a source close to his family said.

"Today they started removing concrete and stones from Arafat's mausoleum and the work will last for almost 15 days," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There are several phases," he said, referring to the opening of the tomb ahead of a visit by French, Swiss and Russian experts to forensically test Arafat's remains over suspicions he was poisoned with radioactive substance polonium.

"It starts with the removal of stone and concrete and cutting the iron (framework) until they reach the soil that covers the body, which will not be removed until the arrival of the French prosecutors, Swiss experts and Russian investigators," the source said.

On Monday, Arafat's mausoleum, which is located at the Muqataa presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah was screened from public view with blue tarpaulins ahead of the operation to open the grave.

The process of taking samples is expected to begin at the end of the month after the French and Swiss delegations arrive on November 26, officials have said.

"Because of Arafat's position and his status, no-one will be allowed, under any circumstances, to photograph his body while the samples are taken," the source said.

When Arafat died at the age of 75 in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004, French doctors were unable to say what had killed him.

Many Palestinians are convinced he was poisoned by Israel.

French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry in August after Al-Jazeera television broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts said they had found high levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat's personal effects.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the eighth anniversary of Arafat's death on Sunday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Russia would also be helping the investigation, although he did not specify how.

"We hope for new facts that we can tell our people and the public," Abbas said.

The new investigation, he said, was "bigger and more important" that the uproar created by the Al-Jazeera inquiry.

Polonium is a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles which was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with the poison at a London hotel.

The French murder inquiry was opened in late August at the request of Arafat's widow Suha, but it has caused a split within the family, with the veteran leader's nephew Nasser al-Qidwa on Saturday condemning the exhumation plans as "a hateful idea."

 

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Separate Syria air strikes kill at least 32

Two more 'significant arrests' over London attack

Cities, monuments dim lights for Earth Hour

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East

Gunmen kill Hamas official in Gaza

UN says Israel has ignored resolution on illegal settlements

Veteran politician says Turkey referendum a 'test' for Kurds

More Algerian women in work, but husbands control wages

Beirut university settles US lawsuit over Hezbollah

1.1 million weekend travellers from Dubai hit by laptop ban

Shiite Lebanese women endure painful custody battles

Russia, China seek Iraq chemical weapons probe

Besieged Syrians struggle with dwindling dialysis supplies

Syria army retakes Damascus areas from rebels

Syria says peace talks must first focus on 'terrorism'

12 Syrian refugees dead after boat sinks off Turkey coast

Mosul displaced head into unknown

As war keeps them away, Yemen children dream of school

Ousted Egyptian president Mubarak freed from detention

Iraq's Sadr threatens boycott if election law unchanged

Israel, US fail to reach settlement agreement

Yemen rebel missile kills Saudi soldier

Turkish FM in Switzerland amid rising tensions with Europe

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgium’s Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva

EU summons Turkey envoy over 'safety' remarks

400,000 'trapped' in west Mosul's Old City

Saudi film festival launch postponed after sandstorm

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings