Arafat and Abbas
Arafat and AbbasIsrael news photo

The Fatah party, which is meeting in Bethlehem, beat the incitement drum Thursday and accused Israel of being responsible for the “assassination” of Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004.

Arabs have routinely accused Israel of having poisoned Arafat, but the statement in Ramallah by former Arafat advisor Bassam Abu Sharif is the first time the party officially has outright blamed Israel.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas opened the convention in Bethlehem earlier this week by saying that a probe should be carried out to determine how Arafat died.

Abu Sharif said, "There is a real nonfeasance in having a real and serious probe and get to the truth that everyone is eager to know. I'm ready to supply any inquiry committee with all needed answers related to the circumstances of assassinating Yasser Arafat.”

Arafat died after his physical condition had deteriorated; he was hospitalized in isolation for two weeks and died while being treated in France. The shroud of security and secrecy at the time prevented any reliable medical reports from being known, although French doctors who were treating him never alluded to his having been poisoned.

The issue of Arafat’s death resurfaced last month when exiled Fatah leader Farouk Kadoumi charged that Abbas and Fatah’s Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan were involved in an Israeli plot to kill Arafat.