Palestinians announce that Yasser Arafat has died

By Arnon Regular and Roni Singer, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies

November 11, 2004

The body of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who died around 3:30 Thursday morning at Percy hospital in Paris, will be transported to Cairo on Friday. Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat said Arafat's funeral will be held in Cairo later on Friday.

"Mr. Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, has died at the Percy Military Training Hospital in Clamart on November 11, 2004, at 3:30," spokesman General Christian Estripeau told reporters in a brief statement.

Estripeau then told reporters that the body of the 75-year-old leader would be leaving the hospital, but that - because of French privacy laws - no details would be given on the cause of death or anything else.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath, Arafat's national security advisor Jibril Rajoub and three other top Palestinian officials were slated to go to Cairo later Thursday in order to make the necessary preparations for Arafat's funeral.

"It was decided that the body will be brought to Cairo and there will lie in state," Erekat told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "After that, the body will be flown from Cairo to Ramallah" for burial.

Six state leaders have so far announced they will attend the Cairo funeral; Jordan's King Hussein, the presidents of Yemen, Algeria, South Africa and Brazil, as well as host Egypt's president, Hosni Mubabrak.

Senior Egyptian security and intelligence officials met Wednesday morning to discuss arrangements to hold the funeral in Cairo, security officials said.

Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the funeral ceremonies would be held inside Cairo International Airport for mourning dignitaries and delegations.

"Arafat's funeral should be as great as his heroism and the sacrifices he made for the Palestinian cause," said Mohammed Sobeih, the Palestinian representative to the Arab League. He said the League would host a three-day memorial for Arafat following the funeral ceremony.

The Jordanian government and monarchy expressed its sorrow at the death of Arafat and declared three days of national mourning starting on Thursday.

Israel's decision to give official approval for Arafat's burial in Ramallah was announced following a morning meeting of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security cabinet.

"The Prime Minister's Office called me now and informed me of their acceptance of our request to bury Arafat in the Muqata," said Erekat, referring to Arafat's semi-demolished compound, to which the PA chairman had been confined by Israel for almost three years.

The prime minister has been adamant in rejecting repeated Palestinian appeals to bury Arafat in or near the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary of the Old City of Jerusalem.

In Wednesday's security cabinet discussions, the army had been expected to argue against a Ramallah burial, stating that the Palestinian Authority would be unable to provide sufficient security for an event of this magnitude.

Burial in Ramallah poses enormous logistical obstacles, and will require huge expenditures of manpower to assure the safety of the dignitaries expected to attend, Israel Radio quoted military officials as saying.

Israel has informed international leaders that the Palestinians do not have sufficient forces in the West Bank to provide security for the funeral, but that political considerations overrode security considerations.











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