The body of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is to be exhumed on Tuesday, Palestinian officials say. His body is to undergo tests to find out whether his death in Paris in 2004 was caused by poisoning.
“The tomb will be opened on November 27 and experts will take samples the same day within a matter of a few hours,” Tawfiq Tirawi told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
He said a reburial ceremony would be held later the same day.
Arafat’s family members had earlier said that the exhumation would probably go ahead on Monday.
Tirawi did not explain the apparent delay while stressing the exhumation was painful but necessary to establish the truth of allegations that Israeli may have poisoned the iconic Palestinian leader.
“November 27 will be one of the most painful days of my life for personal reasons as as well as patriotic, political and religious ones,” the Palestinian inquiry chief said.
“But it is necessary in order to get to the painful truth behind Yasser Arafat’s death.”
Tirawi added that members of his commission remained convinced the Israel had used the radioactive element polonium to kill Arafat – the same poison used to assassinate Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
“As patriotic Palestinians, we remain convinced that the Israelis assassinated president Arafat, and at the inquiry level, we have evidence leading in this direction,” he said.
Rumours and speculation have surrounded Arafat’s death ever since a quick deterioration of his condition saw him pass away at the Percy military hospital in suburban Paris in November 2004 at the age of 75.
French doctors were unable to say what killed him and, at his widow’s request, a post-mortem was never performed.