What Killed Yasser Arafat? New Report Rules Out Poison.  

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 3 2013 5:20 PM

What Killed Yasser Arafat? New Report Rules Out Poison.  

Palestinian youth hold portraits of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a march in the West Bank.

Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images

Since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, conspiracy theories circulated about whether the Palestinian leader was, in fact, murdered. Palestinians suspected Israel played a role in his demise, which Israel denies. The questions about the circumstances of his death grew loud enough that Arafat’s remains were exhumed last year to try to settle the matter.  On Tuesday, a report by French scientists investigating Arafat’s death ruled out poisoning by radioactive polonium as the cause.

The French inquiry, which concluded that a “generalized infection” led to the leader’s death, contradicts an earlier Swiss investigation that concluded that Arafat was poisoned. The new forensic report presented to Arafat’s widow, Al Jazeera reports, showed “traces of the radioactive element polonium 210, but concluded that Arafat died of natural causes.” A Swiss university published a report last month, according to Al Jazeera, that found “between 18 and 36 times the normal background levels of polonium in Arafat’s rib and hips and in the surrounding soil stained by his body fluid.” A team of Russian scientists also conducted a forensic test, but the results were inconclusive.


After becoming ill in October 2004, Arafat was flown to a French military hospital in Paris where he died in November 2004. At the time of his death, the BBC reports, “Mr. Arafat's official medical records say he died from a stroke resulting from a blood disorder. French doctors were not able at the time to determine what had caused the disorder.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.


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