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'Painful, but Necessary': Arafat's Remains Exhumed

Samples taken from late Palestinian leader's body, then returned quietly to resting place

- Common Dreams staff

The remains of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were exhumed early Tuesday from a concrete mausoleum in Ramallah, West Bank in a final effort to determine if his death in 2004 was caused by radioactive posioning at the hands of Israeli intelligence agencies.

Arafat's remains were returned to the mausoleum after a 10-hour process conducted by international experts to test for radioactive polonium. Scientists led the exhumation, with forensic experts from France, Switzerland, and Russia each receiving bone fragments to determine if traces of polonium-210, a radioactive compound, are evident in the remains.  Traces of the poison were previously discovered on clothing worn by Arafat near the time of his death.

Hanan Ashrawi, a legislator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, who served with Arafat for years, told Al Jazeera the investigation has been painful, but necessary. 

"At the human level it's very painful," Ashrawi told Al Jazeera. "Still, it's a requirement. We need to get closure. We need to find the truth. But to all the Palestinian people, it's very painful."

Following the extraction, Arafat was returned to his grave quietly after a planned military funeral was cancelled.

Al-jazeera has video:

And The Guardian reports:

Arafat died in November 2004 in a French military hospital, a month after suddenly falling ill. While the immediate cause of death was a stroke, the underlying source of an illness he suffered in his final weeks has never been clear, leading to persistent speculation that Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied such allegations.

The exhumation might not resolve the mystery. Polonium-210 decomposes rapidly, and some experts say it is not clear whether any remaining samples will be sufficient for testing.

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