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Report: Yasser Arafat's body 'has been exhumed'

Palestinian officials say the remains of former leader Yasser Arafat have been exhumed over allegations that he was poisoned, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Arafat died in November 2004 in a French military hospital, a month after he suddenly fell ill.

He was later buried at a limestone mausoleum in Ramallah.

Allegations of foul play immediately surfaced, with many Palestinians pointing the finger at Israel, but it has denied any wrongdoing.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's body to be exhumed

The body of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is set to be exhumed today over allegations that he was poisoned.

Back in August, French magistrates opened a murder inquiry into Mr Arafat's death in Paris after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of radioactive polonium on his clothing, which was supplied by his widow, Suha.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is depicted on a barrier in Israel Credit: Reuters/Marko Djurica

Mr Arafat died aged 75 in 2004 after a short, mysterious illness. No autopsy was carried out at the time - at the request of his wife - and the French doctors who treated him said they were unable to determine cause of death.

Allegations of foul play immediately surfaced, with many locals pointing the finger at Israel, but it has denied any wrongdoing.

Experts from Switzerland, France, Russia and the Palestinian territories will take part in the exhumation, which will take place behind blue sheeting that has been carefully erected around his limestone mausoleum in Ramallah.

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What is Polonium-210?

The body of the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed on Tuesday to test to see if he was the victim of Polonium-210 poisoning.

Polonium was first discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898. It is a radioactive element that occurs naturally in the earth's crust.

According to scientists from the University of Chicago Polonium-210 is traditionally used to clear dust from camera lenses or photographic film.

It is poisonous if ingested and it's believe that the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko who died in November 2006 was the victim of Polonium-210 poisoning.

Yasser Arafat poisoning investigation timeline

  • 12th October 2004 Yasser Arafat falls ill at his compound. He is flown to a French military hospital for treatment
  • 11th November 2004 He passes away at the age of 75
  • September 2005 The New York Times obtains a copy of his medical records which shows that he died as a result of a stroke caused by an unknown infection
  • July 2012 An investigation by Al Jazeera reveals high traces of the poison polonium in his personal possessions
  • August 2012 French prosecutors launch an investigation after Swiss scientists find traces of radioactive polonium-210 in Yasser Arafat's belongings

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Polonium tests at the centre of Arafat murder inquiry

Allegations of foul play have long surrounded Yasser Arafat's demise. Credit: PA/PA Archive/

Yasser Arafat's murder inquiry was triggered by a Swiss institute finding high levels of polonium-210 on his clothing supplied by his widow, Suha.

However, the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne responded that symptoms described in Mr Arafat's medical reports were not consistent with the element.

Suha Arafat's lawyer, Marc Bonnant, said the tests in Switzerland "showed that Mr Arafat, in all likelihood, died through poisoning."

He added: "This hypothesis must be proved, and if that's the case, then it's premeditated murder."

Mr Arafat was confined by Israel to his compound after a Palestinian uprising and was already in poor health when he collapsed in October 2004.

At first his aides said he was suffering from flu but, looking weak and thin, he was flown to France where he slipped into a coma and died on Nov. 11.

Israel hopes French inquiry will 'shed light' on Arafat death

Despite many Arabs suspecting Israel of being behind Yasser Arafat's decline, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor distanced his nation from the French inquiry into the Palestinian leader's death.

Yet Mr Palmor said he hoped it would reveal more on the circumstances of Mr Arafat's death.

This does not pertain to us. The complaint lodged by Suha Arafat with the French police does not address Israel or anyone in particular.

If the French justice system has decided to open an investigation, we hope that it will shed light on this matter.

Arab League to call for international inquiry into Arafat death

Yasser Arafat's widow Suha asked the court to open the murder investigation. Credit: Reuters / Images

The Arab League will call at the United Nations for an international investigation into the 2004 death of Yasser Arafat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority has said.

Saeb Erekat, though, welcomed news that a French court had opened a murder inquiry into the death of the longtime Palestinian leader in a Paris military hospital eight years ago.

The inquiry follows claims by Mr Arafat's widow, Suha, that he may have been poisoned with the radioactive element polonium-210. The same substance infamously killed former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Report: France opens Yasser Arafat murder inquiry

Yasser Arafat's widow Suha has supported efforts to exhume his remains. Credit: Chris Bacon/PA Archive

French prosecutors will investigate claims Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in Paris in 2004, AFP has reported.

The murder inquiry came after Mr Arafat's family began legal action over the allegation that he died at a military hospital of radioactive poisoning.

It was reported last month that highly toxic polonium was found on the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's personal effects at the time of his death eight years ago.

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