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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 13:32 GMT
Arafat's illness still a mystery
Yasser Arafat
Arafat appeared noticeably frail as he left for treatment in France
The cause of Yasser Arafat's death looks likely to remain as disputed as the nature of his political legacy.

The military hospital where he received treatment observed France's strict medical secrecy laws, and declined to comment on the nature of his condition.

All that is known is that Mr Arafat had been unconscious since last week, and suffered a brain haemorrhage which led his organs to fail, one by one.

The lack of information has left ample room for rumours and conjecture.

A top Hamas leader has accused Israel of poisoning Mr Arafat with an undetectable toxin.

This was previously denied by Palestinian officials, as were suggestions Mr Arafat was suffering from cancer.

Difficult living conditions

Mr Arafat's difficult living conditions under virtual siege in his half-demolished compound have also been blamed for his mystery illness.

A destroyed section of Mr Arafat's compound in Ramallah
Arafat's compound in Ramallah had been partially destroyed

Mr Arafat lived in two damp and dark rooms, one his bedroom, the other his office and meeting room, and rarely left the building.

"You were there for an hour and you wanted to leave, and he lived there for more than two years," said Karma Nabulsi, a former Palestine Liberation Organisation official.

Certainly, the last public image of the Palestinian leader as he left Ramallah for Paris was that of a very frail man.

Mr Arafat had been dogged by rumours of ill health for years, including one that he had Parkinson's Disease.

His trembling hands, jaw and lower lip were said to be the first signs of the illness.

Blood disorder

Whatever the cause, his condition started to deteriorate last month when Mr Arafat began suffering from stomach pains.

He rarely left the building, and his lack of exposure to fresh air and sunlight were said to have been contributing factors to his worsening condition.

The first diagnosis was flu, but two weeks later, the pains worsened sharply, prompting doctors to recommend treatment abroad.

YASSER ARAFAT: KEY DATES
24 Aug 1929: Born in Cairo
1958: Founds Fatah
1969: Elected PLO chairman
1974: Addresses UN General Assembly
1982: Expelled from Lebanon by Israelis
1990: Supports Saddam Hussein during First Gulf War
1991: Marries Suha Tawil
1993: At the White House signs peace agreement with Israel
1994: Jointly awarded Nobel peace prize with Rabin and Peres
2001: Israel blockades him inside Ramallah headquarters

Blood tests revealed that he had a low count of platelets - responsible for clotting.

At first, Palestinian officials were optimistic, claiming Mr Arafat's condition was not "life-threatening".

Doctors said further details were being withheld at the request of Mr Arafat's wife Suha.

But some Palestinians pointed out that Mr Arafat was no ordinary husband or father - he was the father of the Palestinian liberation movement.

As Mr Arafat deteriorated, frustrated Palestinian officials made the trip to the Percy military hospital to find out more.

Whatever they learned, no further public revelations as to the cause of his illness were made.

Mr Arafat died two days later, and the true nature of his condition may never be widely known.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Continuing radio coverage on Yasser Arafat's death



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