RAMALLAH, West Bank Yasser Arafat’s political heirs Tuesday opened his grave and foreign experts took samples of the iconic Palestinian leader’s remains as part of a long-shot attempt — eight years after his mysterious death — to determine whether he was poisoned.
Arafat died in November 2004 at a French military hospital, a month after suddenly falling ill at his West Bank compound, at the time besieged by Israeli troops.
The immediate cause of death was a stroke, but the underlying reasons were unclear, leading to widespread belief in the Arab world that Israel poisoned the 75-year-old symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
Israel has denied involvement in Arafat’s death.
The exhumation began before dawn Tuesday, under the cover of huge sheets of blue tarpaulin draped over Arafat’s mausoleum in his former government compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. By mid-morning, the grave was reclosed, and officials from Arafat’s Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization laid wreaths at the mausoleum.
Palestinians had launched an investigation after Arafat’s death but made no progress. The probe was revived this summer when a Swiss lab detected elevated traces of a lethal radioactive substance, polonium-210, in biological stains on his clothing.