Palestinians leaders agreed Wednesday to exhume the body of Yasser Arafat after a television documentary suggested that he had been assassinated while being treated in a Paris hospital.
Arafat was 75 and had long been ill when he slipped into a coma and died on Nov. 11, 2004. He had been suffering from a mysterious illness. The cause of the death was never determined and French medical officials would not release details of his illness because of privacy laws. The medical report was given to his family.
The television network al Jazeera broadcast a documentary this week in which a Swiss institute examined clothing provided by Arafat's widow, Suha, and determined there were high levels of polonium-210, the same substance found to have killed a former Russian spy in London in 2006.
Suha Arafat has since called for her husband's body to be exhumed from its mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Presidential adviser Nabil Abu Rdeineh said Wednesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has given instructions to launch an investigation with international experts to look into the findings of the al Jazeera report.
The Abbas regime will agree to exhume the body, and senior PA official Saab Erakaat demanded that it be conducted by an international committee.
The al Jazeera report was the subject in every shop and street corner throughout the Palestinian territory. In East Jerusalem's main commercial street Saleh al Din, it replaced conversations about the Arab Spring and the Syrian crisis.
People were critical of the PA for not doing anything to advance an investigation of Arafat's death instead of al Jazeera.
And most people said the reports confirmed their own suspicions.
Ahmed Batta, a barber shop owner in East Jerusalem, told ABC News, "We knew for a long time that Arafat was poisoned. What we need to know now is who is behind the killing?"
[Related: What is polonium-210 and how can it kill?]
Batta, 45, had prime suspects in mind.
"The Israeli Mossad and the American CIA," he said.
Arafat's body must be exhumed "so we will know the truth and also we might find who was behind it," Batta said.
Bookstore owner Iyad Muna, 42, told ABC News, "Arafat was killed and we knew that. And we know more than that. We knew that Israel killed him, but there was a lack in evidence. Yesterday we got the evidence."
"Arafat was the symbol of the Palestinian struggle and fight for freedom, but the PA will stay silent because they are interested in keeping the so called peace talks" with Israel, Muna said.
Iyad Dajani, a travel agent, praised al Jazeera's findings and wants them followed up. "It was always on our mind (that Arafat was killed)," he said.
Dajani, 47, however, does not want Arafat's body to be disturbed.
"The truth is there with the military hospital in Paris, and it will be disrespectful for such a great leader like Arafat to have his body exhumed," he said.
- Politics & Government
- Yasser Arafat
- Suha Arafat
- al Jazeera