Palestinian authorities on Tuesday opened Yasser Arafat’s grave to experts for samples of the remains of the former leader of the PLO. Foreign experts are trying to determine if the former leader was poisoned. Relatives of Arafat and his political successors believe Arafat had been poisoned and that caused his death eight years ago.
Authorities started the exhumation prior to dawn behind large blue tarps that were draped over Arafat’s mausoleum to hide the exhumation from the public. The mausoleum is located in the former compound of Arafat in Ramallah in the West Bank.
At mid morning, the experts had the samples they had come for and the grave was closed said one of Arafat’s former intelligence chiefs.
Arafat became ill and later died in November of 2004 in France at a military hospital. Just one month prior, Arafat had taken ill in his Ramallah compound at a time when the compound was swarming with troops from Israel. On his death certificate, doctors listed Arafat’s cause of death due to a stroke. However, the underlying causes that caused the stroke were never clear and many Arabs believed that the Israelis had poisoned Arafat.
Israel denies having any involvement in the former leader’s death. An investigation was started when Arafat died eight years ago, but has been dormant for many years until this past summer. A Swiss lab announced during the summer that it had been able to detect polonium-201, the lethal radioactive substance, on the clothing of the former PLO leader.
Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, authorized officials to exhume Arafat’s body despite a large number of people saying there were too many cultural and religious taboos involved with disturbing the gravesite of someone.