JNN 28 Nov 2012 Gaza : The head of the Palestinian team investigating the death of Yasser Arafat says Israeli officials were involved in the “assassination” of the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Tawfik al-Tirawi said there is evidence that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had ordered the assassination of Arafat in a conversation with Shaul Mofaz, the former Israeli minister for military affairs.
On Tuesday, a Palestinian doctor collected the samples of Arafat’s body from his mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah to establish whether his death in Paris in 2004 was the result of poisoning.
High and unexplained levels of Polonium, a radioactive poison, were found in Mr Arafat’s clothing and personal effects in Swiss tests carried out for al-Jazeera television.
Scientists from France, Russia and Switzerland, who were present during the process of taking samples, will carry out tests for polonium-210 and possibly other lethal substances in their respective countries.
A Palestinian commission established to oversee the exhumation on Tuesday said it would petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a trial if Mr Arafat was found to have been poisoned.
Tirawi, who is a former Palestinian intelligence chief, also said that regardless of the positive or negative results of the investigation, the Palestinians and Arab states were certain that Arafat was assassinated, and that the case will stay open until the truth is uncovered.
“If it is proved that Arafat was poisoned, we will go to the international court,” said Tawfiq Tirawi, the commission’s leader said.
A former Palestinian intelligence official close to Mr Arafat, who died in November 2004, said he believed collaborators had worked with Israel to poison Mr Arafat.
Fahmi Shabameh, a one-time head of internal security in the Palestinian Authority’s espionage service, the Mukhabarrat, said senior figures may be implicated in a plot to kill Mr Arafat.
Forensic scientists took samples from the former Palestinian president’s remains early on Tuesday after opening his tomb on the grounds of the PA’s headquarters, the Muqatta, in Ramallah.
It is believed that the investigation could take several months. Many Palestinians say the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, poisoned Arafat with a radioactive element.
Doctors on the investigation commission predicted it would take up to three months before the results of tests – carried out by Russian, French and Swiss scientists – emerged.
Israel has vehemently opposed the PA’s bid for United Nations’ full observer-state status – due to go before a UN general vote on Thursday – partly because it fears the Palestinian leadership will exploit to bring cases before the ICC.
Mr Arafat’s death would be a possible test case because Palestinian have long insisted that Israel engineered his death after keeping him under siege in his headquarters for the last three years of his life in revenge for the Palestinian intifada.
Israel strenuously denies the accusation but Mr Shabemeh, a member of a previous inconclusive investigation, told The Daily Telegraph that Palestinian collaborators bore responsibility for exposing Mr Arafat to mortal danger. “Yes. They are powerful and they are highly involved in relation to this incident,” he said.
“I want to be clear. The planning, employing and providing was done by Israel. Ninety-nine per cent of it was Israel’s doing. But we as Palestinians want to find the (Palestinian) hands who did it.”
Identifying three prominent Palestinian figures, he added: “We can be sure that they are not free of the blood of Abu Amar (Mr Arafat).
Mr Shabemeh’s allegations were backed up by Ahmad Abu Ala’am, a former Al Aqsa Brigade Member who guarded Mr Arafat while the Israelis laid siege to him in the Muqatta.
“I believe there were some Palestinian leaders who collaborated with Israel and were involved in poisoning him,” he said. “There were many people who hated Arafat. I’m sure he was poisoned. The truth that should be known is who were the ones involved in assassinating him.”
The exhumation comes after French authorities opened a murder inquiry into Arafat’s death this year after Swiss scientists found traces of polonium, a radioactive substance, on some of his belongings. Polonium is a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles.
The inquiry was launched after Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, lodged a formal legal complaint