News and Views
Al Jazeera Investigates – Killing Arafat
Abbas Vows to Uncover the Truth Behind Arafat's Death
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that the PA was determined to uncover the truth of how former leader Yasser Arafat died, regardless of the consequences.
“I am confident that the investigations committee will reach the truth that will be publicized to our people,” Abbas was quoted by the Ma’an news agency as having said in a recorded speech to coincide with a ceremony marking the 9th anniversary of Arafat’s death.
On Thursday, Swiss experts said tests suggested Arafat was killed by polonium poisoning though they clarified that the test results neither confirmed nor denied polonium was the actual cause of his death.
Arafat died in France on November 11, 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. At the time, his widow Suha Arafat refused to allow an autopsy.
Suha Arafat later allowed investigators to exhume his body after traces of polonium-210 were found on clothing that she provided to scientists as part of an Al Jazeera documentary.
On Friday, PA officials were quick to say that the Swiss experts’ findings meant that Arafat had been “assassinated” and, as expected, blamed Israel for the “assassination.”
"We say that Israel is the one and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat's assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case," said Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian Authority's inquiry into the death.
PA society has long given currency to the rumor that Arafat was murdered, with Israel the party most often blamed, but there has never been any proof.
"The (test) results proved Arafat was poisoned by polonium, and this substance is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state," Wasel Abu Yusef of the PLO's executive committee said on Sunday, according to Ma’an.
"Just as a committee was formed to investigate the killing of (slain Lebanese prime minister) Rafiq Hariri, there must be a international committee to investigate the killing of president Arafat," he added.
Israel on Friday once again firmly denied killing Arafat.
"I will state this as simply and clearly as I can: Israel did not kill Arafat. Period. And that's all there is to it," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
"The Palestinians should stop levelling all these groundless accusations at Israel without the slightest proof. Israel did not do it. Enough is enough," he added.
On Wednesday, Palmor told the BBC that the entire saga of Arafat’s death was " more soap opera than science."
Polonium is a chemical element with the symbol Po and atomic number 84, discovered in 1898 by Marie Curie and Pierre Curie. A rare and highly radioactive element with no stable isotopes, polonium is chemically similar to bismuth and tellurium, and it occurs in uranium ores. Applications of polonium are few, and include heaters in space probes, antistatic devices, and sources of neutrons and alpha particles. Because of its position in the periodic table, polonium is sometimes classified as a metalloid. Other sources say that on the basis of its properties and behavior, it is "unambiguously a metal".