Israel ‘only suspect’ in Arafat death: Palestinians

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Yasser-ArafatPALESTINIAN investigators said on Friday that Israel is the “only suspect” in the death of former president Yasser Arafat, after a new report suggested he died from polonium poisoning.

“We say that Israel is the prime and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat’s assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case,” Palestinian committee head Tawfiq Tirawi told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Arafat’s widow, Suha, has said she believes the latest report proves he was assassinated. However, she said her late husband had many enemies around the world and she could not directly accuse anyone.

The Palestinian leader died in a military hospital in Paris in 2004 after suddenly being taken ill at his presidential compound in Ramallah.

“We say that Israel is the prime and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat’s assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case,” Palestinian committee head Tawfik Terawi told a news conference in Ramallah.

It is not clear how the Palestinian investigators believe the poison was administered to Arafat, who was surrounded by guards and a close circle of aides at his compound.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell, who was at Friday’s hearing, said that in response to that question, the head of the committee said there had been a lot of interviews and he had “security information” but could not make details public at the moment.

A report by Swiss scientists said Arafat’s remains contained “unexpectedly high” amounts of polonium-210. However, they could not confirm it had caused his death.

His remains were exhumed last year following tests on his belongings that suggested he could have been poisoned.

About 60 samples were divided between Swiss and Russian investigators and a French team carrying out an investigation at his widow’s request.

France began a murder inquiry in August 2012 after the preliminary findings of polonium by the Swiss scientists, who have been working with an al-Jazeera documentary crew.

One Russian official said last month that no traces of polonium had been found.

Our correspondent says some Palestinian officials have already called for a new international inquiry into Arafat’s death.

Scientists from the Vaudois University Hospital Centre (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland, had carried out a detailed examination of Arafat’s medical records, samples from his remains and items he had taken into the hospital in Paris.

The biological materials included pieces of Mr Arafat’s bones and soil samples from around his corpse.

Prof Francois Bochud told a news conference on Thursday that the high level of polonium detected “by definition… indicates third party involvement… Our results offer moderate backing for the theory of poisoning”.

But he added: “Was polonium the cause of the death for certain? The answer is no, we cannot show categorically that hypothesis that the poisoning caused was this or that.”

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