Palestinians have called for an international investigation into the death of former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat.
On July 3, al-Jazeera reported that the findings of nine-month laboratory research conducted at the Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, suggested the former Palestinian leader may have been poisoned by polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat said on Wednesday, “We call for the formation of an international investigation committee, modeled on the international investigation committee set up to look into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.”
Tawfiq Tirawi, who led a Palestinian probe into the case, said that if Arafat’s family agreed, Palestinian authorities would allow an analysis of samples from the remains that are buried in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Tirawi said he met with acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday and “recommended accepting an analysis of the body” of Arafat, adding that Abbas “for his part agreed on the condition that the family… accepts.”
Arafat died in Paris on November 11, 2004, at the age of 75, following several weeks of medical treatment.
At the time, French officials refused to reveal the exact cause of his death on grounds of privacy laws, fueling rumors that the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, had poisoned him with thallium, another radioactive element.
The nine-month investigation into his death was based on forensic testing of items belonging to the late Palestinian leader, including clothing worn by him that were handed to his widow Suha by the Paris hospital where he died.
Suha said on Wednesday that she “will immediately address an official letter to the Swiss laboratory that conducted the tests… to authorize the collection of samples from the remains of the martyr Arafat to verify the results and accelerate the uncovering of the truth about the assassination of Arafat.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas issued a statement on Wednesday saying, “The beneficiary of this time is the Zionist enemy.”
Hamas called for a probe that would also uncover “those who collaborated or facilitated the task of the occupier.”
Francois Bochud, head of the Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne, said on Wednesday that the conclusion of the research was that some “significant polonium” was found to be present in the samples.
Bochud also stated that if Suha Arafat “really wants to know what happened to her husband, [we need] to find a sample. I mean, an exhumation… should provide us with a sample that should have a very high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned.”