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Palestinian sources say Arafat dead, others deny
Updated: 2004-11-10 08:10

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat suffered a brain hemorrhage on Tuesday and aides said he had died at a French hospital, but confusion over his fate grew as officials insisted in public that he still clung to life.

Palestinian sources say Arafat dead, others deny
Palestinian policemen carry a poster of President Yasser Arafat during a rally to support him in the West Bank city of Hebron November 9, 2004. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie saw Yasser Arafat in a French hospital on Tuesday after doctors said the Palestinian leader had slipped into a deeper coma, a Palestinian source at the hospital said.  [Reuters]
Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, in a strenuous denial, said the Palestinian president, 75, was "very much alive," but at least five senior sources said he had succumbed to the mystery illness that led to his being flown to Paris on Oct. 29.

A top aide said Arafat, who lapsed into coma last week, had suffered a brain hemorrhage. Palestinian sources said leaders were waiting for a senior Muslim cleric to arrive on Wednesday to give the go-ahead for disconnecting life-support machines.

Simultaneous announcements were expected from Paris and the West Bank. After that, Arafat's body would probably be flown to Cairo for a funeral before burial in the West Bank, they said.

"He is dead," one Palestinian source said. "He died after bleeding in the brain began last night. His bodyguards started hugging and kissing and telling each other to be strong."

Palestinian sources say Arafat dead, others deny
Two Palestinians men react after hearing the news of President Yasser Arafat in the centre of the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 9, 2004. [Reuters]
Shaath described Arafat as "very ill," but said his brain, heart and lungs still functioned. A spokesman for French medical services said earlier: "Mr. Arafat is not dead."

The conflicting reports surfaced during a visit to Paris by a delegation of three senior Palestinian officials, all seen as potential successors to Arafat, to check on the Palestinian leader despite his wife's angry objections.

The group later headed back to the West Bank, where officials said no announcement was expected before their return.

In four decades leading the Palestinian nationalist cause, Arafat has gone from guerrilla to Nobel prize-winning peacemaker to a shunned old leader facing renewed bloodshed with Israel.

His dream of a Palestinian state remains unrealized, a possible succession battle is brewing and the threat of chaos in Palestinian territories is looming.

He has been widely admired by Palestinians as the father of their struggle for statehood but was reviled by many Israelis as the face of terror.

Nonetheless, both sides have wondered whether his death might serve as the catalyst for first real peace effort in years or plunge the region into deeper crisis.

Palestinian sources say Arafat dead, others deny
Tayyeb Abdel-Rahi, a senior aide to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat reacts during a press conference at the Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 9, 2004. [Reuters]
Arafat's aides said they planned to bury him at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah. Israeli officials have been saying the Jewish state, which occupies much of the West Bank, wants him laid to rest in the Gaza Strip, but Israeli officials said late on Tuesday they might not interfere.


Arafat was flown to the Paris military hospital from his battered headquarters where he had been effectively confined by Israel for more than two and a half years.

A small crowd gathered outside the headquarters after hearing news reports of his death, some people in tears.

Mohammed Abdel-Samad, a 25-year-old merchant, sat with his back to the compound wall, weeping. "I feel like an orphan who lost his dad. He is our leader, our father, our symbol," he sobbed.

In the Gaza Strip, hundreds demonstrated in the war-scarred Rafah refugee camp, firing rifles and bearing posters of Arafat.

Despite his reputation as a consummate survivor, Arafat's decline came swiftly and with little warning.

Initial claims that he was suffering from a stomach ailment soon gave way to widespread reports that he had slipped into a coma and that his organs were failing.

French doctors kept a tight lid on details of Arafat's condition at the behest of his wife, Suha, who engaged in a war of words with senior Palestinians officials over her virtual monopoly on information from his hospital bedside.

Palestinian sources say Arafat dead, others deny
PLO Secretary General Mahmoud Abbas(L) Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath(C) and Prime Minister Ahmad Qurie(R) talk to journalists in Paris November 9, 2004. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was very ill but his brain, heart and lungs were still functioning, Shaath said. [Reuters]
But on Tuesday, as the officials arrived in Paris to check on Arafat, doctors said he had slipped deeper into a coma.

The delegation including Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, Shaath and Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Mahmoud Abbas arrived at the hospital after France hinted it was losing patience with the visit dispute.

Arafat's wife, Suha, had accused the three leaders of wanting to "bury him alive," a scathing attack that drew sharp criticism from officials and ordinary Palestinians alike.

Most of Arafat's powers have been take over by Qurie and Abbas, both leading moderates. Arafat's death would call for parliament speaker Rawhi Fattouh to assume the presidency in a caretaker capacity for 60 days until elections could be held.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, visiting Mexico, said Washington remained committed to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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