Saturday, July 07, 2012

Yasser Arafat's body to be exhumed

Following on Aljazeera's report on the possible poisoning of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority has granted Arafat's widow's request to exhume his body to be examined for polonium-210 poisoning.

Sheera Frenkel reports for McClatchy Newspapers in Palestinian officials to exhume Arafat’s body 07/05/2012:

His widow, Suha Arafat, allowed the Al Jazeera news channel to take her husband’s last belongings to a Swiss lab for testing. The results found high levels of polonium-210, a rare and deadly radioactive element.

Arafat, who won the Nobel Peace Prize as he led the struggle for Palestinian statehood for four decades, died on Nov. 11, 2004, in a French hospital at age 75 after suffering from what doctors described as a “mysterious illness.”

Medical teams from the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia all treated Arafat, and French doctors announced that he had died of a massive stroke after suffering from inflammation, jaundice and a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation – though they did not provide an explanation for why he had suddenly come down with those ailments.

On Thursday, Tunisian officials said they would call for the Arab League to establish an international committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding Arafat’s death. Despite widespread accusations that Israel had long sought to assassinate Arafat, some have questioned whether those closest to Arafat may have played a role. ...

Polonium-210 is a rare substance that scientists estimate is 250,000 times more lethal than cyanide if ingested.

The most famous case of polonium poisoning was Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium-210 at a London hotel.
Jeffrey Heller and Dan Williams also report the story for Reuters, Palestinians eye Arafat autopsy after poison report 07/04/2012:

A Swiss institute which examined clothing provided by Arafat's widow Suha for a documentary by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television said its radiation protection experts had found "surprisingly" high levels of polonium-210, the same substance found to have killed a former Russian spy in London in 2006.

But it said symptoms described in the president's medical reports were not consistent with the radioactive agent.

"I want the world to know the truth about the assassination of Yasser Arafat," Suha Arafat, 48, told Al Jazeera, without making any direct accusations, but noting that both Israel and the United States saw him as an obstacle to peace.

Allegations of foul play - and of Palestinian involvement in it - have long marked factional fighting among Palestinians. The latest revelation coincides with renewed tensions within Arafat's Fatah movement, now headed by his successor President Mahmoud Abbas, and between Fatah and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip. ...

Israel's foreign minister in 2004, Silvan Shalom, rejected at the time as "scandalous and false" the idea that his country had a role in Arafat's death. But Israel had earlier threatened Arafat, blaming him for Palestinian violence.

After losing 15 citizens to suicide bombings in September 2003, Israel's security cabinet decided to "remove" Arafat, without elaborating publicly on the precise action it planned to take. An Israeli newspaper quoted Dichter as saying at the time that it would be better to kill Arafat than exile him.

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