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Arafat — polonium-poisoned?

Al Jazeera probe finds abnormally high levels of radioactive element on Palestinian leader’s underwear

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the Muqata'a in 2002. (photo credit: Palestinian Authorities via Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the Muqata'a in 2002. (photo credit: Palestinian Authorities via Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Radioactive poison may have killed PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday.

The Qatari news agency recently launched an investigation into the death of the Palestinian leader, and found high levels of the deadly element polonium on his clothing.

Arafat died in 2004 in France from an undetermined cause after a month-long illness.

Analysis of Arafat’s clothing conducted by Al Jazeera and the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, found irregularly high levels of the rare radioactive element. Polonium’s effects on the human body are deadly but largely undocumented.

“Arafat’s personal effects, particularly those with bodily fluids on them, registered much higher levels of the element” than occurs naturally, Al Jazeera reported. “The urine stain on [Arafat’s] underwear” registered 27 times the amount of radioactivity than a control pair of underwear.

Two years after Arafat’s death, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in London after a mysterious three week illness. A British inquiry found that Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium that was slipped into his tea at a sushi restaurant. Arafat and Litvinenko shared symptoms diarrhea, weight loss and vomiting.

Al Jazeera noted the fact that “at least two people connected with Israel’s nuclear program also reportedly died after exposure to the element.”

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