Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Middle East: Arafat's final days In October 2004 the Mouqata compound sheltering Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had been under siege by the Israeli military for two years. The President was kept isolated in Ramallah, as his health deteriorated steadily.

At the end of the month doctors said he was suffering from a bad case of the flu.

But those around him began to suspect he had been exposed to poison. On 28 October, his wife crossed the Jordanian border to come and join Arafat in Ramallah, after weeks of negotiations with the Israeli authorities. She had not seen her husband since 2001. Now she would accompany him to Paris.

Arafat, left by helicopter for Jordan, where a medically equipped plane flew him to France. He thought he might return; Israel had agreed.

He was taken to a military hospital in Percy, near the French capital. But he got worse, not better, though the specific cause of his death on 11 November would remain obscure.

French President Jacques Chirac saw to it that Arafat was honoured officially, with Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin at Villacoublay Airport in attendance as his earthly remains were put on board a plane back to Jordan.

The burial took place in Ramallah the next day, and not in Jerusalem, as Arafat had wished, as Israel would not permit it.