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Arafat body to be exhumed in murder inquiry

Nov. 24, 2012 4:16 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 10:33 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The body of late president Yasser Arafat will be exhumed on Tuesday in an investigation to establish if he was murdered, a Palestinian official said.

Tawfiq Tirwai, who heads the committee to investigate Yasser Arafat's death, made the announcement during a news conference Saturday in Ramallah.

Nov. 27 will be "the toughest day in my life for personal, nationalistic, symbolic and religious reasons. It is a painful necessity as we need to know the truth about Arafat's death," he said.

The Palestinians have "evidence which suggests Arafat was assassinated by Israelis," Tirawi added.

Israel denies any involvement.

The exhumation and renewed allegations of Israeli involvement could stir further tension between the Palestinians and Israel, which are observing a truce after a week of fierce fighting in Gaza.

Any positive results for polonium could rekindle Palestinian hostility toward Israel and suspicions that a local collaborator may have poisoned him under directions from Israel.

Allegations of foul play have long surrounded Arafat's demise. He died in a Paris hospital in November 2004, a month after being flown, seriously ill, from his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

French doctors who treated him in his final days said they could not establish the cause of death, and no autopsy was performed in deference to his widow's request at the time, when Arafat died at 75.

Eight years is considered a limit to detect any traces of the deadly radioactive substance, according to the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics.

Tirawi said Arafat's body would be exhumed from its limestone mausoleum in Ramallah, away from the public or media presence, and separate samples will be taken by the French and Swiss forensic teams, as well as a Russian team of experts, who the Palestinians invited to help with the examination.

After the investigation "the body of leader Abu Ammar will be returned (reburied) in a military ceremony that is befitting him as a leader of the Palestinian people", Tirawi said.

Tirawi said results could take up to several months to be announced.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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