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Fatah leader, Farouq Qaddumi,`categorically confirms` that Arafat was poisoned by Israel

Accusation bolsters widely held belief among Palestinians that former president was murdered

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
The Daily Star
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=16722

Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was fatally poisoned by Israel, the head of the dominant Palestinian movement Fatah is claiming. The senior Palestinian leader`s claim has strengthened a widely held belief among Palestinians that Arafat`s death eight months ago was due to foul play. `I can categorically confirm that Abu Ammar was poisoned,` exiled Fatah chairman Faruq Qaddumi told reporters, referring to Arafat by his nom de guerre.

Arafat, long the public face of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, was declared dead in a French military hospital on the outskirts of Paris on November 11, 2004. He had been treated there for two weeks.

France`s strict medical secrecy laws mean that the exact cause of Arafat`s death has not been made public, but his nephew received a copy of his medical file.

Nasser al-Qidwa, Arafat`s nephew, has stated that French doctors who carried out tests on his late uncle discovered no trace of any known poison.

But Arafat`s personal physician for more than 20 years, Jordanian Ashraf al-Kurdi `attests that Abu Ammar presented the symptoms of poisoning,` said Qaddumi, who succeeded Arafat as head of the Fatah movement which the late president had founded.

`The poison was administered in the food and in the medication he swallowed,` said Qaddumi, who refuses to visit the occupied Palestinian territories and lives in Tunis.

He added that Palestinian Health Minister Dhehni al-Wahidi, had visited Tunisia to meet with doctors who had examined Arafat prior to his transfer to Paris.

Those doctors had been rushed to Arafat`s bedside as his health suddenly plunged in late October 2004, but have kept their silence on their findings.

Arafat medical records were handed over to the Palestinian Authority, which has set up a special committee of doctors to study the details.

Qaddumi`s allegations are a variation of a theory put forward by Arafat`s former Cabinet secretary, Ahmad Abdel-Rahman, who has said the Palestinian president was poisoned more than a year before his death.

`The president was exposed to something [on September 25, 2003], and I`m inclined to believe it was maybe gas or something else,` he said during an interview in December.

Neither man has produced any medical evidence to back up their claim.

The lack of evidence has not prevented many Palestinians from forming the view that the man who symbolized their quest for independence was killed by Israeli agents, having long been branded by his arch enemy, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as `an absolute obstacle` to peace.

`I am almost sure that he was poisoned,` said schoolteacher Farid Abdel-Halim.

`It`s still not been clarified how he died, which makes me believe that Abu Ammar was poisoned, as we know he was a target of the Israelis for long,` Abdel-Halim said near the Muqataa leadership compound where Arafat is buried.

Taxi driver Osama Qassam was even more unequivocal.

`I am positive that Arafat was poisoned. The Israelis couldn`t kill him directly so they had to get him this way,` he said.

`Once it was just a feeling, but as no one has come up with an explanation I feel that they are trying to hide something. This situation proves that Arafat was poisoned.`

Similar views prevail in the Gaza Strip, the stronghold of the Islamist movement Hamas whose overall leader Khaled Meshaal was poisoned by Israeli agents in Amman eight years ago as part of an abortive assassination attempt.

`The Americans and the Israelis did not want Abu Ammar around so they wanted to poison and kill him,` said Abdel-Majihd Sarah, a civil servant in Gaza City. - AFP

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