Last updated: 16 October, 2012

Investigators into Arafat’s death arrive in Ramallah next month

French investigators into the death of Yasser Arafat will arrive on November 26 in Ramallah, where the former Palestinian leader is entombed, a Palestinian source familiar with the case said on Tuesday.

“We have been informed that the French commission of inquiry will arrive on November 26 to commence its work,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Reaching Arafat’s body and taking specimens for analysis will take time, maybe several weeks or a month,” the source said, adding that experts from the Institute of Radiation Physics at Switzerland’s University of Lausanne would arrive at the same time as the French investigators.

“The Palestinian Authority will provide these teams with every facility in order to determine the circumstances of the death of president Yasser Arafat,” the source said.

Tawfiq Tirawi, the head of the Palestinian panel on Arafat’s death, told AFP last month the Palestinian Authority had decided to combine the work of the Palestinian, French and Swiss teams in an effort to establish the facts.

The iconic Palestinian leader died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 and French experts were unable to say what had killed him, with many Palestinians subscribing to the belief that he was poisoned by Israel.

French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry in August after Al-Jazeera television broadcast an investigation in which the Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat’s personal effects.

Polonium is a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles. It was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London shortly after drinking tea laced with the poison.