Palestinians have begun work to exhume the body of their former leader Yasser Arafat as part of a probe into his death that some experts say is fueled by politically charged rumors, AFP reported.
Arafat’s mausoleum in Ramallah has been cordoned off, according to local sources. International experts will be called in to conduct tests on Arafat’s body.
“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,” a source told AFP.
An investigative report by Al-Jazeera and a Swiss institute found high levels of the radioactive element polonium-210, a rare and highly lethal radioactive substance, on Arafat’s clothing. Last month, French courts reopened an investigation into Arafat’s death following pressure from Arafat’s wife Suha based on the new claims.
Arafat died in Paris in 2004 at age 75 from a massive stroke, according to French doctors. While no autopsy was conducted following his death, many in the Arab world claim Israelis poisoned him. According to Palestinian Media Watch, this rumor is repeatedly broadcast on Palestinian Authority (PA) TV.
“The Jews poisoned [Arafat] and I hate them very much. Allah will repay them what they deserve,” a Palestinian girl said in a recent PA TV broadcast translated by PMW.
Middle East experts say the PA is continuing to propagate this story under pressure to score political points amid the upheaval of the “Arab Spring.”
“This is the only weapon at [the PA’s] disposal,” Palestinian politics expert Hillel Frisch told the Times of Israel in July. “But they’re not going to get anywhere with it. The dead don’t mobilize the living.”