Sharon learned of Arafat's 'death' from French intelligence

Friday, November 5, 2004

RAMALLAH Israeli officials have confirmed reports that Arafat died. They said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon obtained the information from French intelligence.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said the 75-year-old Arafat died on Thursday in a military hospital in Paris.

The officials said Arafat was deemed clinically dead, but remained attached to life support systems on the insistence of his wife, Suha, Middle East Newsline reported.

"He is dead and there is no longer any doubt of this," a PA official said. "The announcement will come when Suha agrees to it, but I don't imagine the French allowing a dead Arafat to stay in their hospital for more than another few days."

The official said that over the last week Suha has pressed Arafat aides for information on her husband's bank accounts. Arafat was said to have up to $3 billion in assets, much of it believed deposited in Swiss banks, according to a report in the current edition of

The PA has not confirmed Arafat's death. Officials said Suha was the only one authorized to issue statements regarding her husband's condition. On Friday, after repeated assertions that Arafat's condition was improving, PLO envoy Leila Shahid said the chairman was in a coma.

The PA has already begun preparing the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the announcement of Arafat's death. On late Thursday, amid the PA denials of reports that Arafat has died, PA television broadcast a program on his life.

"What's being done now is no different than when King Hussein died," the official, referring to the death of the Jordanian monarch in 1999, said.

"Hussein was essentially dead when he was flown from the U.S. hospital back to Amman. But Jordan waited three days until all of the preparations for the succession of power had been completed."

Israel's military began to implement its plan drafted to respond to Arafat's death. Termed "New Leaf," the plan by the military's Central Command envisions power struggles within the ruling Fatah movement and between Palestinian insurgency groups as well as an effort to increase civil unrest and armed attacks against Israel.

Arafat was expected to be succeeded by a two-man Palestinian leadership. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei would operate the PA's daily affairs while PLO Executive Council chairman Mahmoud Abbas was seen as becoming the head of the PLO and deal with Palestinian foreign affairs.

The PA placed its security forces on alert. On Friday, Qurei was scheduled to travel to the Gaza Strip to meet security chiefs and other officials in an effort to coordinate policy.

At the same time, Palestinian insurgency groups were expected to meet to discuss a post-Arafat regime. So far, the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad has warned that it would intensify the war against Israel.

PA officials said Arafat did not leave a will that stipulated where he wished to be buried. Israel has ruled out the prospect that Arafat would be buried in Jerusalem.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives