Israel Accused of Killing Yasser Arafat

Palestinians say an al Jazeera film released last week confirmed suspicions.

ByABC News
July 4, 2012, 11:36 AM

ANTAKYA, Turkey, July 12, 2012 — -- Israel was accused Tuesday of being behind the killing of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the most official accusation levelled against the Jewish state since Arafat's sudden and mysterious death in November 2004.

"We are accusing Israel of killing Yasser Arafat and poisoning him," said Tawfiq Tirawi, the head of the committee charged with investigating Arafat's death, at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "We are asking for a trial for those who assassinated and poisoned Arafat."

Palestinians have long accused Israel of being behind the poisoning of the 75-year-old longtime leader.

Many feel their suspicions were confirmed last week with the release of a documentary by the television network Al Jazeera that found "significant" levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat's personal effects, which his wife had given to the channel for examination by a Swiss forensics laboratory.

"Israel was not involved in the death of Arafat," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev told Agence France-Presse. "All the medical files are in the hands of the Palestinians and it was not Israel who is preventing their publication."

The Arafat Foundation has now released the medical records online.

Arafat's nephew Nasser al-Qidwa, the head of the foundation, said there's "no longer any doubt" Arafat was "assassinated by poisoning."

The documentary revealed that Arafat was not tested for polonium at the French hospital where he died after being airlifted from the West Bank and that his cause of death was listed as "unknown."

Two years later Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent and critic of Vladimir Putin, was famously killed with polonium in London.

"The French report said that specialized doctors were not able to find a reason or known illness that can explain the causes for the death," said Arafat's former doctor Abdullah al-Bashir on Tuesday. "They said that developments in the illness could not be explained in the framework of pathology."

"We are ready to work with the Swiss lab to take samples from Arafat's body," he added.

At the end of the film, Arafat's wife, Suha, called for the exhumation of his body for further investigation. The Palestinian Authority and Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, quickly supported the move, with a top Abbas aide saying it could happen "within days."

But on Tuesday, the Palestinian justice minister said no request had yet been made to exhume Arafat.

At the news conference in Ramallah, investigator Tirawi said Palestinians could have been involved with Arafat's poisoning.

"The Palestinian people want to know the truth about Arafat's death," he said. "We should do everything to reach the truth."