Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

November 9, 2013

Russian report stirs new confusion in Arafat death

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Four investigations, hundreds of testimonies and stacks of medical reports on Yasser Arafat’s unexplained death in 2004 have failed to produce hard evidence of what killed him — and findings presented Friday only created more confusion.

Palestinian officials said a report they received from Russia on the role of radioactive polonium in Arafat’s death was inconclusive. They spoke just a day after Swiss scientists said the Palestinian leader was probably poisoned by the rare and extremely lethal substance.

Despite those discrepancies, the Swiss and Russian reports agreed that Arafat’s death “was not caused by old age or disease, but as a result of a toxic substance,” said Dr. Abdullah Bashir, a medical expert in the three-member Palestinian team that has been investigating Arafat’s death. This, he told a news conference, is in line with the long-standing Palestinian contention that Arafat was poisoned.

The reports have renewed longstanding allegations that Israel was behind the attack, despite its denial.

The Palestinian team’s leader, Tawfik Tirawi, said Israel had the technical means and the motive.

“I say, with all the details available about Yasser Arafat’s death, that he was killed, and that Israel killed him,” he said. The former Palestinian intelligence chief did not present evidence to back up the claims.

In the four years leading up to his death, Arafat’s relationship with his longtime nemesis, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had become increasingly hostile. Sharon, a hard-liner, blamed Arafat for encouraging anti-Israeli violence instead of working toward a peace deal and kept him isolated at his West Bank compound for extended periods.

Former Sharon aide Raanan Gissin reiterated Friday that Israel had nothing to do with Arafat’s death. “The Palestinians are using Israel as a scapegoat,” he said. “If Arafat was murdered, then he (the killer) should be sought among the heads of the Palestinian Authority.”

Tirawi said his team would spare no effort to solve the mystery, but it’s not clear where an investigation could go from here, considering the Palestinians’ limited technical means. Tirawi said a decision on a possible international tribunal — like the one that investigated the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — would be up to Arafat’s successor, President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas has not commented on the substance of the latest findings. A new probe could invite close scrutiny of Israel as well as Palestinian aides and bodyguards who surrounded Arafat in his compound.

Arafat died Nov. 11, 2004 at a French military hospital, a month after falling ill at his West Bank headquarters. At the time, French doctors said he died of a stroke and had a blood-clotting problem, but records were inconclusive about what caused that condition.

The Palestinians launched an investigation at the time, and Tirawi said Friday that it encompassed hundreds of statements from Palestinians and non-Palestinians in the West Bank and around the world. No suspects emerged and no arrests were made.

The investigation hit a dead end, and was only revived when the satellite TV station Al-Jazeera persuaded Arafat’s widow, Suha, last year to hand over his hospital bag with underwear, headscarves and other belongings. Mrs. Arafat has lived in exile since her husband’s death and is estranged from most of the Palestinian leadership.

The items in the bag were examined by Switzerland’s Institute for Radiation Physics, which found elevated traces of polonium.

Earlier this year, Arafat’s grave in his Ramallah compound was reopened. Swiss, Russian and French scientists were given samples of the remains and burial soil.

The Russians had been invited by Abbas who wanted another opinion, and the French team was part of a legal case Mrs. Arafat was pursuing in France. The French team has not yet released its findings.

The Swiss scientists said Thursday that they found elevated traces of polonium-210 and lead in Arafat’s remains, and that the timeframe of Arafat’s illness and death was consistent with poisoning from ingesting polonium.

Francois Bochud, a member of the Swiss team, said that the results “reasonably support the poisoning theory.”

Bashir, the Palestinian physician, said the Russian team sent its findings to the Palestinian Authority several days ago and the full report would be made public at a later time.

Bashir said that the Russian scientists did not find enough evidence to determine that polonium-210 “caused the acute radiation syndrome leading to death.”

He did not elaborate at the news conference. He later told The Associated Press that the Russian investigators did find elevated levels of polonium, but declined to answer further questions.

Al-Jazeera posted online what it said was a 15-page excerpt from the report by Russia’s Institute of Medical and Biological Research. Officials at the state-run institute were not available for comment late Friday on whether the excerpts are authentic.

In another twist, Al-Jazeera quoted the source from whom it obtained the report as saying the Russian government asked the scientists to keep the findings intentionally vague.

The station said the excerpts show that only four of 20 samples were examined by the Russian team.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Lake Park considers millage rate increase

    Lake Park has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will result in a 29.64 percent increase in property taxes.

    July 28, 2014

  • Free Health Fair slated for August 9th

    A free health fair hosted by the 100 Black Men of Brooks-Grady-and-Thomas Counties, Inc. and sponsored by Archbold Hospital will take place on August 9th  from 8:00am until 12 noon.

    July 28, 2014

  • BtpsXVpIgAEXKB-.jpg Manhunt underway for drivers of stolen dump truck

    This morning, around 8:00 deputies from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office attempted to stop a dump truck traveling south on I-75.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingston’s loss means less clout for Ga.

    For two decades, Rep. Jack Kingston was a congressman who routinely crushed his opponents on election night — winning a new term every other year with vote totals between 63 and 77 percent.

    July 28, 2014

  • IMG_3745.jpeg Gas leak on West Adair

    A gas leak has occured on West Adair Street, between Tombs and Oak Street. The leak began just after 11 a.m.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • salmonella 2 copy.jpg Trial nears for suspects in salmonella case

    Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georgia.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Commercial driver training program expanding

    Department of Driver Services (DDS) Commissioner Rob Mikell announced recently an expansion of the commercial driver training program administered by the Agency’s Regulatory Compliance Division. DDS will now offer a Commercial Driver License (CDL) Instructor Training Class for customers who have applied to be CDL instructors. The session will provide additional guidance as the applicants prepare for the final exam.

    July 28, 2014

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • Heat advisory for much of South Georgia

    A heat advisory is in place for much of South Georgia until 7 p.m.

    July 27, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results