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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 19:12 GMT
Reporters' log: Arafat funeral
Yasser Arafat
Arafat: Both asset and liability for the Palestinian cause

The veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was buried in Ramallah on Friday.

Earlier representatives from across the world attended his military funeral in Egypt.

BBC correspondents recorded their thoughts as he was laid to rest.

This log has now closed.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1805GMT

Palestinians and foreign supporters are coming to the Muqata compound in ones and twos to pay their respects at the grave of Yasser Arafat, several hours after the dust has settled from his tumultuous funeral.

The tomb is a wide, flat structure, with a low ramp leading to it. In the middle is the rectangular grave which is filled with wreaths, tributes, pictures of Mr Arafat, Palestinian flags and scarves.

About 20 uniformed Palestinian guards surround it and mourners approach the grave in groups of four or five to read the Fatiha, the short opening chapter of the Koran.

Others just stand and reflect on the floodlit monument, the man inside and the extraordinary life he led - a man vilified or adored around the world. The guards are gentle but firm, making sure people don't linger too long or show any disrespect.

Jon Leyne :: Cairo :: 1753GMT

Much of President Bush's comments in his press conference with the British Prime Minister to Tony Blair were focused on reviving the Middle East peace process. Our correspondent Jon Leyne is in the Egyptian capital Cairo and looks at the likely response in the Arab world.

President Bush's renewed commitment to peace in the Middle East will be welcomed, but also viewed with deep scepticism in the Arab world. Mr Bush is seen here as an American president who has provided almost unquestioning support for Israel, possibly the most supportive American president in Israeli history.

The first action that might lessen that scepticism would be a peace mission. Under Mr Bush's first term high level diplomacy has become almost invisible. The Palestinians have also pressed consistently for Israel to fulfil its commitment to a settlement freeze. What is perhaps most significant in Mr Bush's comments was his very public support for Palestinian elections to find a successor for Yasser Arafat.

Elections are due to happen within sixty days, but Israel must surely feel tempted to block them if a strong candidate emerges who is not to their liking. Washington will be happy to work with the current leaders who have taken over power, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia, but in opinion polls neither has secured a rating of more than about two or three percent and if President Bush tries to bolster their popularity, that could just condemn them in Palestinian eyes as the pro-American, pro-Israeli candidates.

James Reynolds :: Ramallah :: 1732GMT

Above the skies of Ramallah, two Egyptian military helicopters circled. Below, thousands mourners were chanting inside the grounds of the ruined presidential compound. They climbed over walls and forced their way past guards to get a look at their leader's final journey. Then the helicopters landed and the crowd surged forward towards them. The ceremony of the burial turned to chaos.

Guards, gunmen and mourners fired into the air for several minutes. Then, Yasser Arafat's coffin, draped in a Palestinian flag, was taken from one of the helicopters. It was borne above the crowd towards his grave, dug under a copse.

The Palestinian leader was buried under soil brought from the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, where Palestinians hope he will one day be re-interred and all along the gunfire continued. Yasser Arafat's life was marked by drama and chaos and in the end he was buried the way he lived.

Peter Biles :: Cairo :: 1656GMT

Walking behind, President Mubarak of Egypt led the mourners. They included heads of state, mainly from the Middle East and Africa and dignitaries from around fifty countries. The impressive turnout of world leaders reflected the powerful influence that Yasser Arafat had exerted on the international stage for three decades before his confinement in Ramallah. At times this looked very much like a full state funeral, but the ceremony was not open to the public.

There was tight security with thousands of Egyptian police lining the roads nearby. At noon, Mr Arafat's body was taken aboard a military transport plane for a final journey back to the West Bank. In death, the city where Yasser Arafat was born had granted the Palestinian leader some of the dignity which had alluded him during the political isolation that marked the final years of his life.

Richard Miron :: Jerusalem :: 1515GMT

Israel looked keenly at the proceedings in Ramallah today and probably wondered how much control the Palestinian leadership has over the Arab Street.

Alan Johnston :: Gaza :: 1415GMT

I'm sure many of the people I'm looking down at now would have liked to have made the journey to Ramallah today. But nobody seriously thought that Israel would allow that.

The end of the march here did have a very militaristic feel, with members of various paramilitary organisations taking part. But there were more civilian supporters of Mr Arafat taking part earlier as the march came through the town.

Barbara Plett :: Ramallah :: 1351GMT

The event is over now, in the last minute the helicopters have just lifted off, carrying the Egyptian dignitaries back to Cairo.

Alan Johnston :: Gaza :: 1349GMT

I'm in the presidential compound, the place where Yasser Arafat worked and lived for several years in the immediate aftermath of the Oslo agreement.

A large tent has been set up in front of me and thousands of people are starting to come, some groups of men in masks with guns, but it is an orderly scene - there is ceremonial shooting in the air.

I can see the flags of Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, these groups coming together to remember Yasser Arafat in Gaza.

Paul Adams :: BBC News Centre, London :: 1340GMT

The sun has begun to dip quite far now, we can't be far from sunset. I think we will see more and more of these people heading home.

Ramallah is not an exclusively Muslim town, there are a large number of Christians here who are not bound by the same constraints of Ramadan.

Many of them may choose to stay and linger a while to pay their respects.

Roger Hearing :: Ramallah :: 1338GMT

Now people are streaming home at the end of a day of great emotion and great exhaustion. It's extraordinary how quickly it all happened. He didn't lie-in-state, but when the people took his coffin through the crowd, that was a kind of lying-in-state.

Paul Adams :: BBC News Centre, London :: 1332GMT

There is a little uncertainty about where we are in the ceremonial. It seems Yasser Arafat, somewhere in the middle of that crowd, has been buried.

For the rest of the Palestinians, who were in a state of great agitation earlier on, I think now there is a sense they feel this day is coming to an end.

James Reynolds :: Ramallah :: 1331GMT

Sunset is approaching now. Hopefully now people's passions and emotions will cool too.

Some people have been carried out of the crushed crowd, there are two ambulances now heading towards the compound.

Gunfire is still continuing into the air, these bullets have to land somewhere.

Two Israeli helicopters are now in the air and circling around the compound. This will only inflame Palestinians.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1323GMT

We are told now that prayers have been chanted in the Islamic tradition and the body of Yasser Arafat has been put in the marble tomb, which also has soil from Jerusalem.

We understand Yasser Arafat has now been buried, put in his final resting place in this compound filled with Palestinian people.

There is a crush of people around the graveside.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1320GMT

It's undeniable the people have taken over this funeral and made it their own, taking possession every step of the way since Yasser Arafat's body arrived here.

You can see now some emergency vehicles making their way into the crowds, we have already seen some relief workers rushing by.

It's not surprising there would have been some injuries in there because of the sheer numbers of people crushed together and the heat of the day.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1315GMT

The new generation of Palestinian leaders are now pressing their way towards the tomb.

Israel will be watching the faces of the new leaders and hoping it will be easier to deal with these men.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1309GMT

Sunset is only two hours away so we will have to see a significant improvement in the situation before they can bury him. Crowds have begun to clear.

James Reynolds :: Ramallah :: 1308GMT

The one thing the Palestinians are keen to emphasis today is that they do not see this as the permanent burial place here in Ramallah. They still hope to bury him in Jerusalem at a future date.

Paul Adams :: BBC News Centre, London :: 1307GMT

This looks like a classic Martyrs funeral. Some of the officials are wearing uniforms, some aren't, which is indicative of the chaos of the Palestinian Authority. For a while it looked like the Arab street might overwhelm the proceedings.

Bizarre though it may look to people watching from the outside, this is probably how Arafat would have wanted it.

James Shaw :: Ramallah :: 1300GMT

The light is fading here, some people are starting to leave the compound. They are casting a long shadow as they make their way home, wanting to be home for the end of the fasting.

Barbara Plett :: Ramallah :: 1259GMT

The noise was absolutely deafening as the helicopter landed. People were cheering, whistling, chanting, waving flags, giving the 'v' for victory salute. Crowds inside the compound surged forward over-running the security forces, surrounding the helicopters and the burial plot. Guards shot in the air to try and regain some order.

They fought to clear a corridor, the finally the coffin emerged, held aloft by the security guards, but in seconds the crowd had closed in around it. Slowly it began to move through the sea of people almost as if they themselves were carrying it to Yasser Arafat's grave. Cairo was the dignified state funeral. This was the reality, the people, unrestrained, come to say goodbye their leader.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1255GMT

Now I can hear the deafening noise of firecrackers and Kalashnikovs being fired into the air, as Palestinians say their last goodbye. Despite optimistically rolling out the red carpet earlier, there was always the danger that the funeral would turn into this chaos.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1249GMT

It is complete chaos it has to be said now. The officials are moving through the crowds, those who were in Cairo for the military funeral earlier today. Even their words are falling on deaf ears now. It is now time for the Palestinian people, their moment to say goodbye to their leader.

James Shaw :: Ramallah :: 1244GMT

Chaos, I have lost sight of the coffin within this mass of people. I cannot judge where it is or how long it will take it to get to the burial site.

Roger Hearing :: Ramallah :: 1243GMT

People are clearly not prepared to be driven back from the coffin. It could be their last chance to reach out to their leader. They've now started climbing on top of the car carrying the coffin.

James Shaw :: Ramallah :: 1240GMT

The coffin is emerging now. Yasser Arafat has returned home. There is a surge of people trying to get close, trying to touch the coffin which is draped in Palestinian flag. This is very difficult for those carrying the coffin. Moving forward only inch by inch.

Roger Hearing :: Ramallah :: 1239GMT

The Bandmaster is now trying to clear the crowd, though that's not his job. the door of the helicopter has now opened. The coffin has appeared.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1236GMT

They seem to have been able to clear a small space now to allow the senior Palestinians out of the helicopter. I think they may have to abandon their efforts to let Yasser Arafat lie in state and to allow Palestinians file past to pay their respects.

James Shaw :: Ramallah :: 1233GMT

The crowd is surging forward towards the helicopter. This is not going to plan at all. It is all rather undignified now. They are trying to get a vehicle to the helicopter to take the coffin off, it too is moving back and forward.

Palestinian security personnel are trying to direct the operation. It is difficult for them to create enough space around the helicopter to get the coffin out.

Some people are walking away from the compound, doubtless disappointed.

Roger Hearing :: Ramallah :: 1231GMT

It's a very densely packed crowd, if anybody is injured by the firing then I don't see how they could get them out. The firing has just started again.

Richard Miron :: Jerusalem :: 1229GMT

Israeli tv and radio are running the pictures live from Ramallah. There is great interest here too. Israelis understand this is a momentous day in many respects. Israelis are sitting in some anxiety wondering what their dealings with Palestinians will be in the future. They will also be wondering if a new Palestinian leadership will be able to control the people politically and on the ground.

Roger Hearing :: Ramallah :: 1225GMT

There are shots being fired into the air, and the situation is rapidly getting out of control. I'm estimating the crowd to be at least 10,000 strong, maybe more.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1219GMT

Two helipcopters have just landed in the Muqata building. Volleys of shots are ringing out as armed men and members of the security forces greet the arrival of the dead Palestinian leader.

Thousands and thousands of people are inside the compound where the helicopters landed and the crowd surged around the helicopters, waiting for the coffin to appear

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1216GMT

Gunfire is ringing out, the helicopters have landed.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1215GMT

The crowds are chanting, they are welcoming Yasser Arafat home to Ramallah.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1211GMT

Four helicopters have just come into view and a huge roar has come up from the crowd.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1210GMT

We now think that the helicopters are coming straight from Egypt, rather than Jordan. There are crowds of people surrounding the Muqata compound, and inside it. There appears to be too many people inside for the helicopters that are bringing Arafat's body and those accompanying it, to land in the allocate space.

The Palestinian security services are unable to control the number of people. Hundreds of people have climbed up to the roofs of buildings surrounding the compound, some of them perched precariously on platforms and water tanks.

James Shaw :: Ramallah :: 1204GMT

There is undoubtedly a public safety issue here now. Many young boys climbing on to the walls and getting very close to the helipad. The Palestinian security forces are outnumbered. It is a huge public event but also a huge historic event.

Barabara Plett :: Ramallah :: 1141GMT

I'm watching attempts at crowd control here now. People have started coming in over the tops of buildings at the back. They have found all the weak points.

They have surrounded the burial plot now. There are security men standing on top of the plot, trying to protect the area. It is hard to see what they will be able to do when the helicopter lands.

We did see some young men dressed in black, brandishing swords a short time ago. We are also seeing a Christian delegation here, including some monks who have come from Jerusalem.

We now have a boy scout type band marching down the street to the compound, banging their drums.

The mood here now is less of mourning and more of a chaotic popular gathering which Mr Arafat would have liked.

Lucy Williamson :: Ramallah :: 1145GMT

There are many many thousands of people inside the compound now. The Palestinian security service is truly outnumbered. They are trying to keep people back from the graveside but it is a struggle.

Chants of God is Great and of Yasser Arafat's name ring out around the crowd. There are many waving Palestinian flags. Some people here are angry that he is not being buried in Jerusalem.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1141GMT

Crowds are now overwhelming and there is nothing the police can do. They are being held back from the area where the helicopters are to land but they are not far from there now.

Kim Ghattas :: Beirut :: 1130GMT

Thousands of Palestinians have gathered carrying placards with pictures of Mr Arafat and slogans. The different factions amongst the Palestinians living in the refugee camps here have put aside their differences today.

This is an historic day for Lebanon, not just because of the death of Yasser Arafat. It's witnessing a rare venture of Palestinian refugees, usually confined to their refugee camps, into the streets.

Richard Miron :: Jerusalem :: 1125GMT

The immediate response here to today's funeral is heightened security in and around Jerusalem. There are concerns that this occasion could mark efforts by militants to spark violence.

Barbara Plett :: Ramallah :: 1105GMT

It's absolutely packed here on the streets. Thousands of people are coming, everybody trying to find a perch so that they will be able to see the body when it arrives by helicopter.

You can hear the sound of a marching band approaching the compound now.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1102GMT

The final preparations are continuing, thousands of Palestinians are now gathering here, crowded on the street below me, climbing over walls, they all want to be here.

They have opened the gates to the compound now, they did not have a choice.

The grave is ready, and sitting along side is a mound of earth brought from Jerusalem to be used in the burial.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1055GMT

Thousands of people are streaming into the compound now. It is impossible to say how many are here. Many have even made their way into the BBC building overlooking the compound. The security people are unable to cope - everyone is trying to get the best possible vantage point.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1042GMT

I'm inside the Muqata now, and there are thousands of people pouring into the west side of the compound. The security personnel are unable to stop them.

There is a sense of anticipation before the arrival of Mr Arafat's coffin. He is going to be brought in by a formation of three helicopters from Jordan in about an hour.

Roger Hearing :: Gaza :: 1035GMT

I'm at the place that will become the focal point of mourning over the next few days, Mr Arafat's compound. As the peace process unravelled, this place took a beating. Many of the buildings have been reduced to rubble.

For the next three days we can expect people to come here to pay their respects.

Martin Asser :: Ramallah :: 1022GMT

I'm standing 100 yards from the Muqata in Ramallah. There are people now heading towards the compound to wait for the arrival later today of Yasser Arafat's remains. The Israelis have blocked roads in the west bank to Palestinian traffic which may prevent some people from getting here for the burial.

Mutaqa compound
Final preparations are being made

The people who do come are going to be crammed into quite a small space around the building where this afternoon's ceremony is going to take place.

People have been watching the Cairo ceremony on television this morning, so far the response has been quite muted but now people are gathering. It is unpredictable how many people will want to come for the ceremony later today.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 1013GMT

At the eastern edge of the compound in Ramallah we can see the grave that has been hastily built for Yasser Arafat - slabs of marble and a stone-lined tomb.

In the last 48 hours bulldozers and levellers have prepared the ground, clearing it of the wrecked cars and twisted metal that had been strewn across the compound to prevent, the Palestinians say, an airborne assault by Israeli forces.

In the streets the crowds are beginning to gather, there are songs of praise for Yasser Arafat and some angry chants. A band in the background strikes up the Palestinian anthem.

Jon Leyne :: Cairo :: 1012GMT

Most of the European countries sent Foreign Ministers, but many Palestinians will be disappointed that they didn't send someone of a higher level. So although it's a good turnout, it's not quite what you might have expected for the funeral of a conventional head of state.

Matthew Price :: Cairo :: 0953GMT

We are just hearing the aircraft carrying Yasser Arafat's body has just taken off from Al Maza airbase in Cairo.

Already thousands of Palestinians have gathered in Ramallah outside his compound.

Matthew Price :: Cairo :: 0945GMT

The final prayer is being made for Yasser Arafat and we expect at some point in the coming minutes the aircraft with his body in will be taking off from Cairo.

It will be flying into northern Sinai from where a helicopter will finally take the body to his headquarters in Ramallah.

We have been told the plan is for the body of Yasser Arafat to be on the ground in Ramallah by one o' clock local time - that's around an hour and 20 minutes from now.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 0935GMT

Now the solemn march of the honour guard at Al Maza air base in Cairo as Yasser Arafat is being carried in a casket covered with the Palestinian flag. It is the culmination of a short significant ceremony, a goodbye from the world to Yasser Arafat.

It is not a public procession, just this dignified last march as he starts his final journey to the Palestinian territories.

Later today in Ramallah we expect there will be emotional scenes as Palestinians say goodbye to their leader.

Jon Leyne :: Cairo :: 0930GMT

It's been a remarkably short ceremony. Arafat's coffin is now being loaded onto a plane. Military officers, with their swords drawn, are marching alongside the coffin towards the aircraft.

Lucy Williamson :: Ramallah :: 0910GMT

Last night several hundred people marched to Arafat's compound. But the mood wasn't one of anger, but of sorrow.

Today there are no big demonstrations, but small groups of people are coming together quietly and making their way towards the compound.

Matthew Price :: Cairo :: 0903GMT

Yasser Arafat's coffin has now begun to move through the streets of Cairo. Today in Cairo the overall feeling is one of mourning and of paying respects to a man who, for good or bad, has led his people for 40 years.

Matthew Price :: Cairo :: 0855GMT

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is greeting a large number of international guests from Arab states and across the world.

Jon Leyne :: Cairo :: 0845GMT

I think the Egyptian government is working out the proceedings today as they go along. It's been very sensitive that they don't want large crowds with the associated danger of outpourings of emotion. But that will happen elsewhere today.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 0842GMT

We are just waiting on the formal service to get underway. Presidents and politicians have gathered, amongst them now the Egyptian president is sitting waiting.

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has just arrived and is greeting senior Palestinian officials. It had been unclear whether or not he would attend. He is greeting President Hosni Mubarak now and joining other Arab leaders for the service.

Justin Webb :: Washington D.C. :: 0838GMT

The middle east is top of the agenda for Mr Blair and Mr Bush as they meet today, thrust there by the death of Yasser Arafat. But I think it would have been fairly close to the top of the agenda anyway. We have heard from Mr Blair that he regards the re-invigoration of the middle east peace process as important for him.

The Bush administration says it is very willing to hear what Mr Blair has to say and to accommodate him. The Americans say they have to wait for a new Palestinian leadership, they say they can't start rushing around like a bull in a china shop endorsing specific people, or being seen to endorse specific people, they say it wouldn't do them any good and it wouldn't do us any good.

They are very cautious anyway about doing any kind of business with the Palestinians and about being seen to get into a position where one day they would put pressure on Israel. The relationship with Israel has become extremely close during President Bush's first term and I don't think anyone expects that that relationship will be damaged in the second.

Matthew Price :: Cairo :: 0830GMT

There are vast numbers of security personnel on the streets surrounding this ceremony. Journalists are really the only members of the public who are allowed to be here.

Matthew Price :: Cairo :: 0822GMT

Although many people may not have agreed with the way Yasser Arafat conducted his business, particularly in the last few years of his life, many Palestinians and ordinary Egyptians would have liked to have paid their respects. But this is not happening, this is not a service for ordinary people.

Security is tight, the streets of Cairo are being very well protected. There are sixty foreign visitors who have flown in overnight for this military funeral. There are a number of heads of state, including Thabo Mbeki President of South Africa and other Arab leaders too including King Abdullah of Jordan. From European countries we are seeing mostly foreign ministers. Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe has just arrived here too and is greeting those at the mosque entrance now.

Mr Arafat's body will be flown to Ramallah following this service, possibly stopping in northern Sinai en route. Officials here are telling me they wish to complete the burial before sunrise this evening.

Lyse Doucet :: Ramallah :: 0815GMT

Only men will be in attendance at the ceremony, in true Islamic tradition. All of the guests are black suited, it's a very solemn occasion.

The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is here. Mr Arafat often looked to Egypt for help, and the country has played a large role in unifying the Islamic world in recent years.

Peter Biles :: Cairo :: 0809GMT

It would have been very difficult logistically to organise a funeral in Gaza or the West Bank. Mr Arafat's widow Suha has said it was his dying wish to be taken home via Cairo, where he was born. This is not a state funeral despite the attendance of several leaders, but the Egyptians have laid out the red carpet and giving a degree of dignity to the event. The service will last about an hour and a half and then Mr Arafat's body will be flown by helicopter to Ramallah for burial.

Peter Biles :: Cairo :: 0752GMT

Here in the city where Yasser Arafat was born, his funeral will be held at the Galaa Military Officers in the Heliopolis district, close to Cairo airport. The service will not be open to the public, but at least a dozen heads of state will be attending, including the leaders of Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia, the countries where Mr Arafat spent many years during his long struggle for Palestinian independence. the Egyptian authorities have imposed tight security. Thousands of police are lining the streets.

The funeral service is expected to be short. Immediately afterwards, Yasser Arafat's body will be taken by helicopter to Ramallah in the West Bank. Late last night, Mr Arafat's widow, Suha, and senior Palestinian officials accompanied his coffin on board a French aircraft from Paris.

They were met by an Egyptian guard of honour who afforded Yasser Arafat some of the dignity which had alluded him during the last years of his life while confined to his compound in Ramallah.

James Reynolds :: Ramallah :: 0740GMT

Throughout the night and now into the morning, workers have been preparing Yasser Arafat's burial site inside his ruined compound. This is where the Palestinian leader spent the last three years of his life.

His grave has been dug amid a copse next to the wreckage of destroyed buildings and mourners have already begun to arrive, many of them are wearing the black and white keffiyeh head scarf which became Yasser Arafat's symbol, but not everyone will be able to make it here.

Israel will not allow ordinary Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to make the journey to Ramallah, so they have decided to hold a symbolic funeral ceremony of their own in Gaza City and they will watch the burial here from a giant screen. Officials stress that this will be a temporary resting place for their leader and that one day Yasser Arafat's body will be re-interred in the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, where Palestinians hope to establish the capital of an independent state.

Heba Saleh :: Cairo :: 0603GMT

The funeral of Mr Arafat is to be a brief and solemn affair, held in a mosque within a military compound. His coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag, will be taken to the mosque on top of a cannon. After the ceremony, a horse-drawn carriage will take it to an airport within the same compound from where a helicopter will fly it to Ramallah for burial.

Mr Arafat was a hero to millions of Arabs and almost certainly, many Egyptians would have liked to express their feelings in a public funeral. But the Egyptian authorities have decided to keep the public away for security reason. They're also clearly anxious to avoid an outpouring of angry emotions and expressions of frustration in what is seen as the failure of Arab leaders to give sufficient support to the Palestinians.


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