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Israeli officials deny Arafat poisoning rumors

(Xinhua)

13:08, July 06, 2012

JERUSALEM, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Israeli officials on Thursday quashed recent rumors that late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died due to radiation poisoning, denying any connection to his death.

Arafat passed away in a French military hospital outside Paris on Nov. 11, 2004. Hospital doctors said the specific cause of death was a massive brain hemorrhage, and Arafat has a blood disease called "disseminated intravascular coagulation," according to the Haaretz daily.

The report said the ailment has a number of causes, including infections, colitis and liver disease.

However, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera reported Tuesday that a Swiss lab hired on behalf of the late Palestinian leader's widow, Suha Arafat, found "small traces" of polonium-210, which is lethal, on several of his garments.

The Arab world is rife with accusations that Arafat did not die a natural death, and that Israel was somehow behind his demise, a charge officials here have vehemently denied.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Wednesday said it would establish a committee to probe the new claims, and approved exhuming Arafat's body for a forensic test.

However, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials on Thursday derided the reports.

"All of a sudden, Suha's checking her wash basket and discovered clothes that weren't washed for eight years," Deputy Spokesman of Israeli Foreign Ministry Paul Hirschson told Xinhua.

"Suddenly, out of nowhere a couple of garments turn up; we test them, and presto! There's Polonium," he said.

"She's got the medical files; why doesn't she just publish them? " he asked, "I think the Israelis and the Palestinians deserve to know the truth."

The Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne, Switzerland, told Israel Army radio that "There may not have been polonium on the clothing eight years ago, when he died."

"The only way to know if the polonium affected him is to take samples from his body," said spokesman D'arsy Christian, according to Israel National News.

Meanwhile, Avi Dichter, who headed the Shin Bet internal security agency at the time of Arafat's death, told Army radio on Wednesday that "Yasser Arafat had many enemies, domestically, abroad. But let them investigate... The Palestinians know well how to investigate what goes on in their house. Let them investigate and find out."

Dichter added that "The body is in their hands. It is in Ramallah and really, all the keys are in their hands."

A government source speaking with Xinhua on Thursday, however, took a different tack.

"The real question is, why is al-Jazeera doing this?" the individual asked on Thursday, noting that "it's an opportunity to be nasty to the Israelis and accuse us of doing horrible things."

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