Yasir Arafat

Yasir Arafat Funeral
Friday 12 November 2004

Yasir Arafat

Arafat illness and death - Thursay 11 November 2004 

Arafat, 75, died in a French military hospital early on Thursday, after suffering multiple-organ failure, but the exact cause of his illness and death is still not clear. He had been flown to Paris on 29 October after weeks of mystery stomach pains. He fell into a coma on 3 November and never regained consciousness

From Paris to Cairo - Thursday 11 November 2004 

The body arrived in the Egyptian capital later in the day amid pomp and circumstance, with a military band and a red carpet. It was flown from a French military air base after Arafat, 75, died Thursday in a Paris hospital after falling into a deep coma that followed a brain hemorrhage. Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi gave the opening prayer at Cairo's al-Jalaal mosque, starting the official funeral ceremony. Following the prayer, the coffin was taken to the mosque, first by hearse, then by horse-drawn carriage for a military procession through the streets of Cairo to Al-Maza Air Base. Egyptian soldiers and a military band accompanied the Palestinian flag-draped coffin. Dignitaries -- led by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- walked behind the carriage. The streets were cordoned off, preventing Egyptian citizens from participating in the procession. Arafat's widow, Suha, and his 9-year-old daughter, Zahwa, were among the crowd of dignitaries looking on as the coffin was placed on an Egyptian military cargo plane at the air base. From there, it was flown to Al-Arish airport, just south of the Egypt-Israel border, where it was ferried to Ramallah via helicopter for the burial service. 

Some international heads of state, including South African President Thabo Mbeki and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, attended the funeral in Cairo while most Western countries sent lower-level representatives. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns officially represented the United States, while Foreign Secretary Jack Straw 
represented Britain. Arab leaders were present in large numbers.

Arafat funeral in Cairo - Friday 12 November 2004

Arafat's body arrived at Cairo International Airport shortly before 11pm (2100 GMT) and is to be kept overnight at the Al Gala hospital. It will be transferred by helicopter to the Al Gala mosque in Heliopolis (New Cairo) at 8am (0600 GMT) the following morning.

At least 12 Arab presidents and kings are expected to attend the funeral ceremony. Most European and Asian countries are sending their prime and foreign ministers. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns will represent the United States at Arafat's funeral, an official below the many European foreign ministers, African presidents and Arab leaders attending, and a choice that drew criticism that Washington was missing a chance for a fresh start with the Palestinians.

Late on Thursday evening, Egypt announced three official days of mourning ending on Saturday. Flags were flown at half mast. Most of Cairo's main streets and highways will be closed as will all traffic to and from the airport to allow easy access for foreign dignitaries. Arafat, who was 75, will be buried in the West Bank city of Ram Allah, denying him his life-long wish 
of being buried in the contested city of Jerusalem.

Ramallah funeral - Friday 12 November 2004 

Israel fears that Arafat's death could trigger an outbreak of violence, the Israeli occupation army imposed a total security clampdown on the West Bank. The security restrictions have raised questions on the number of Palestinians who would be allowed to enter Ram Allah in the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. Israel has announced that the army would prevent private cars travelling from Jerusalem to Ram Allah and instead would allow only public buses.The Israeli army also announced it would withdraw its forces from inside the Palestinian cities to prevent possible clashes. The forces would remain outside the cities. Gaza City held its own symbolic funeral service, with thousands of people taking part, including members of Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. 

Thousands upon thousands of Palestinians converged on the Muqata compound in Ramallah in the hours ahead of Yasser Arafat's burial. The roads around the compound were jammed with mourners, who soon found a breach in the rough concrete walls on the west side allowing people to flow in like water. 

It had been planned as a dignified ceremony with a red carpets prepared, and an honour guard and marching band were put through their paces on the newly-cleared expanse at the south-east portion of the compound. But as the time approached when the helicopters were due to arrive, the fresh painted helipads were almost flooded by the whistling, chanting and shouting multitude. In the few tall buildings surrounding the Muqata hoards of uninvited guests forced their way up to camera positions commanding the best views of the proceedings. 

The tension grew as news came that the helicopters had taken off from Egypt on their way to Ramallah. World leaders had attended a military funeral for Arafat in Cairo. People squinted to the east for the first sign of aircraft. They whistled and waved, as four large military helicopters came into view in the clear blue sky. Two helicopters - an Israeli Air Force escort, to prevent any attempt to fly the leader to his chosen burial place in Jerusalem, peeled off and the other two turned south to prepare for their final approach to this scene of rising hysteria. A minute or two later the large olive-green Egyptian aircraft were due to land. 

The helicopters came in low over the Muqata with an earth-shaking clatter, they flew low over the roof. People clung on to anything within reach to prevent themselves being blown off the roof as a thick cloud of dust engulfed them. The two pilots took the helicopters down into the spaces cleared of people for them in the Muqata compound. The helicopters' rotor 
blades stopped quickly and the huge crowds surged forward to the foot of the aircraft

The casket, draped in a Palestinian flag, was ultimately removed from the helicopter and carried through the crowd. Mourners desperately clambered for a chance to touch Arafat's casket, as security personnel fought to carry it to his grave site. For a time, the flag was placed on a vehicle, with more than a dozen people standing on it, warning others to get back. Briefly, the vehicle could not pass through the crowd to approach the tomb. Security threatened to take the casket back to the helicopter. At that point, the crowd backed off slightly. Then the crowd pressed on. Soon the flag was gone, the casket's wooden exterior exposed. Security officials surrounded the casket and others linked arms, working to create a channel to get the coffin through to the tomb. Finally, the casket arrived at the concrete and marble tomb, into which officials poured about four buckets of soil brought from from the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, where Palestinians hope Arafat's coffin can one day be taken - a move rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. When it was all over, exhausted security men and mourners sat with their heads in their hands, some of them still weeping with emotion. An hour 
and a half after they had arrived, the helicopters took off again.

Palestinians have been paying their last respects to their dead leader, Yasser Arafat, after a day of mourning in the West Bank town of Ramallah. By nightfall most of the crowd had dispersed, leaving a ring of soldiers guarding Arafat's grave. 

The Palestinian Authority, as well as camps in Lebanon - home to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees - have declared 40 days of mourning.

Farooq QadoumiRawhi FattuhAhmed QoreiMahmoud Abbas

Arafat's Successors

Palestinian parliament speaker Rawhi Fattuh has been sworn in as interim president of the Palestinian Authority. Elections to find a permanent replacement for Arafat are set to take place within 60 days. During Arafat's illness, Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei was in charge of the Palestinian Authority, while Mahmoud Abbas led the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee. Early Thursday, the PLO's executive committee unanimously approved Abbas, a former Palestinian prime minister, to replace Arafat as PLO chairman. Farouk Kaddoumi - will head the Fatah faction

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