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French Experts Say Arafat Died of 'Natural Causes'

Leaked findings of report contradict claims by Swiss team which suggested PA leader had been poisoned. Israel 'not surprised'.

Ari Soffer and Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
AFP photo

A team of French scientists investigating the death of former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat have said that he died of "natural causes", according to French media.

The leaked report says Arafat died of a "generalized infection", and contradicts a previous report by Swiss experts which said their own tests suggested Arafat was killed by polonium poisoning, though they clarified that the test results neither confirmed nor denied polonium was the actual cause of his death.

Those findings have been viewed with skepticism in some parts however, due to revelations that Arafat's former wife was funding the investigation, along with the Palestinian Authority itself. Other experts have poured doubt on the findings themselves, saying that if polonium had been used to kill Arafat it would have decomposed long ago.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the findings were "no surprise", according to AFP.

Arafat died in France on November 11, 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. At the time, his widow Suha Arafat refused to allow an autopsy.

Suha Arafat later allowed investigators to exhume his body after traces of polonium-210 were found on clothing that she provided to scientists as part of an Al Jazeera documentary.

Following the investigation by the Swiss team, PA officials were quick to say that the findings proved that Arafat had been “assassinated” and, as expected, blamed Israel for the “assassination.”

"We say that Israel is the one and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat's assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case," said Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian Authority's inquiry into the death.

Palestinian Arab society has long given currency to the rumor that Arafat was murdered, with Israel the party most often blamed, but there has never been any proof. Israeli leaders for their part have repeatedly denied any role in his death, dismissing such suggestions as pure fiction.

The conspiracy theories have not stopped at Israel, however. The iconic terrorist leader's death has also been wielded as a political weapon against his successor, as current PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' own political rivals have suggested that Abbas himself was involved in Arafat's "assassination". Other PA figures have blamed the United States for his death.