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Muqata Compound, post-Operation Defensive Shield, October, 2002.
R. Hall

Muqata Compound, post-Operation Defensive Shield, October, 2002
R. Hall

Fortified sole entry point to Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat's office and residence, October 8, 2002.
R. Hall

Arafat was reported to be sleeping less than five meters from Israeli tanks outside his sandbagged window.
R. Hall

Backgrounder to Arafat Exhumation: 2002, Arafat Isolated Politically and Physically By Operation Defensive Shield

Lausanne, Switzerland Lab Confirmation of Polonium 210 Presence Gives Basis for Exhuming Body

by Raymond Hall, November 25, 2012


[Editor's note: Raymond Hall visited Ramallah in October,  2002 shortly after the beginning of Operation Defensive Shield.  His photos in this article and following article have never before been published. Feature photo:Pencil Sketch of Yasser Arafat displayed for sale in Ramallah, October, 2002]

It has now been exactly eight years since November, 2004 when Yasser Arafat succumbed to a mysterious illness that went undiagnosed for years. Recent forensic analysis undertaken by the Al Jazeera media network with the full cooperation of Arafat's widow, Suha, has resulted in the confirmation by reputable sources of high levels of the radioactive isotope Polonium 210 in Arafat's blood, urine and hair samples retrieved from the clothing he wore during the last weeks of his life.

This radiation confamination has given French authorities cause to open a criminal investigation into his death, and will lead to the exhumation of his body on Tuesday, November 27th, to obtain further specimens for testing.If, as expected, the testing discloses a high concentration of Polonium 210 in the body samples, the events leading to his death will take on a new significance. Was he poisoned? If so, by whom, and with the assistance of which member or members of his inner sanctum?

Although the mainstream media will undoubtedly pursue this issue with vigour, I would like to provide some background information concerning some of the events occcuring prior to his death in 2004, based upon my own recollections as well as first-hand observations of some of those events, supplemented by my own heretofore unpublished photographs taken in Ramallah shortly after the beginning of Operation Defensive Shield.


Eight years is a long time in Israeli life, given the number of events that transpire almost daily. Consequently, it is easy to overlook the circumstances surrounding some past events. Case in point: Yasser Arafat spent the last two years of his life as a virtual prisoner of his own making holed up in his Muqata compound in Ramallah.

The seeds of his disenfranchisement both with the international community and with his own people were sown largely in the year 2000, following his refusal to commit, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, to what many outside observers viewed as reasonable options placed before him during the Camp David Summit organized by U.S. President Bill Clinton, and participated in by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The failure of the Camp David Summit to produce any tangible progress on the peace process was followed very shortly by the election of more right-wing leaders of the United States and Israel: George W. Bush took office  in January, 2001 and Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister in February, 2001. Following upon the more hard-line leadership of both countries, and particularly, Israeli response to continued terror attacks of the Second Intifada throughout 2001 and early 2002, Arafat’s movements became very restricted.
On March 29, 2002, two days after the Passover Massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya, an attack that killed 30 and wounded 140 others, the majority of whom were senior citizens, Ariel Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield, invading Arafat’s Muqata headquarters in Ramallah, destroying all but two buildings, the hospital and a small segment of the Palestinian Authority Headquarters building (see accompanying photos, taken October 8, 2002).
Operation Defensive Shield also destroyed the Ramallah military base 2 Km to the west of the Muqata, as well as the headquarters building of the Palestinian Authority Police (see photos in the succeeding article). The IDF forces, according to my source, drove their tanks and armoured D9R bulldozers up to each building, issued a verbal warning to the occupants (in Arabic) to vacate the buildings within a specified very short period of time, then shortly thereafter proceeded to demolish the premises and all adjacent vehicles, using various means, as illustrated in the photos.
The raid on the Muqata proceeded slightly differently. The IDF apparently believed that Arafat was providing refuge inside the building to a number of terrorists, including the alleged assassins of Tourism Minister and former distinguished General Rehavam (Gandi) Ze’evi (murdered October 17, 2001). Prior to destroying some of the Muqata buildings, the IDF conducted raids, obtaining documentary evidence that would implicate Arafat in providing financial support to terrorist groups. For whatever reason, portions of the Headquarters building were left intact amid the total devastation of the remaining portions of the compound surrounding that building. 
As a result, Arafat continued to reside in the building, conduct meetings in its offices and receiving visitors, including foreign diplomats, right up until his final illness in October, 2004, notwithstanding that he was isolated by his enemies and abandoned by many of his friends.
Ariel Sharon made no secret of his desire to isolate Yasser Arafat, both physically and politically, during and subsequent to 2002.
Arafat Becomes Sick, Then Dies
On October 4, 2004, four hours after eating his dinner, Arafat became violently ill, with severe stomach pains and vomiting. Over the course of the next two weeks, his blood platelet count nosedived and he began experiencing severe diarrhea. Doctors were summoned first from Egypt, then from Jordan, then once again from Egypt, when he failed to recover. On October 28th, after his health continued to deteriorate, he was airlifted to Paris, France, where he was diagnosed with disseminated intravascular coagulation (“DIC”) (multiple blood clots within the veins), however there was no apparent cause of the problem. Some progress and improvement was made following plasma transfusions, but he later relapsed, and on November 3rd fell into a coma. He succumbed on the morning of November 11th.
French medical authorities performed dozens of tests, attempting to determine the cause of the illness onset, including tests for HIV, all known common debilitating diseases, and toxicology of several known poisons, all of which came back negative.
No autopsy was performed. His remains were airlifted back to Ramallah, with a stop in Egypt, and he was buried in a temporary mausoleum in Ramallah the following day. Samples of his blood and urine were kept by the French authorities until 2008, and then disposed of, given that there was no criminal investigation opened into his death.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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