Arab doctors to probe Arafat's death

Nearly five years after Palestinian President Yasser Arafat died by what French doctors called a massive brain haemorrhage, Arab doctors will meet in Jordan to probe rumours Arafat was poisoned – a suspicion that has lingered years after his death.

Arafat’s death on November 11, 2004, at a military hospital outside of Paris almost immediately spawned speculation he had been killed by Israel who viewed him as an obstacle to concluding a peace treaty.

The 75-year-old Arafat who led the Palestinian movement for almost 40 years fell violently ill in his Ramallah compound in October 2004 and two weeks later was evacuated to a French hospital where he died.

At the time, French doctors bound by strict privacy rules were tight-lipped on Arafat’s condition, and his widow refused an autopsy.

Adding to the speculation, Palestinian leaders have never given a definitive cause of Arafat’s death.

French doctors who treated Arafat concluded in a report that he died of a “massive brain haemorrhage” after suffering intestinal inflammation, jaundice and a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC.

What brought on the DIC remains unclear. The condition has numerous causes, ranging from infections to colitis to liver disease.

“Consultation with experts and laboratory tests could not help to find a cause that would explain ... the group of syndromes,” his French doctors wrote at the time. The report made no mention of poisoning or another popular conspiracy theory, Aids.

Israel strongly denied accusations it played a role in Arafat’s death. French doctors declined to comment on the speculation.

There has been no prior formal probe into Arafat’s death that followed a quick deterioration of the Palestinian leader’s health.

Jordanian heart surgeon Abdullah al-Bashir said the meeting involving seven to eight doctors – many who treated Arafat when he fell ill in October 2004 – will try to determine whether Arafat was poisoned.

The long-time Palestinian leader battled Israel for years before signing peace treaties with the Jewish state in the 1990s. But Israel blamed him for the failure of further peace talks, and he spent the last two years of his life under siege in his West Bank compound, after Israel accused him of being behind a wave of suicide bombing during the second intifada.

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