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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 17:52 GMT
Chaos as Yasser Arafat is buried
Yasser Arafat's grave in Ramallah
Arafat's body rests in a marble and stone grave
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been buried at his battered compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah amid chaotic and emotional scenes.

Mr Arafat's body was lowered into a marble and stone grave as thousands of Palestinians thronged the area.

Mourners fired guns into the air as the coffin arrived on a helicopter following a military funeral in Egypt.

Thousands surged around the helicopter and after some delay, the coffin was carried through the crowds.

Mr 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.

A leading Jordanian doctor, Ashraf al-Kurdi, who regularly examined Mr Arafat, and last saw him two weeks ago, has said poisoning was the "highest" possible cause of death, the Associated Press news agency reports.

But earlier this week, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said French doctors had ruled out poisoning.

Mr Arafat 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.


The burial took place amid tumultuous scenes as tens of thousands of mourners surged around the coffin.

It took 25 minutes for the coffin to be unloaded from the helicopter because of the huge crowd.

A police jeep had to edge through to clear a space by the helicopter, as Palestinian officials accompanying the body from Egypt pleaded with the crowd to move back and allow them to open the door.

Click here for an image of Arafat's burial site in Ramallah (65K)

Before the coffin's arrival, mourners had scaled the walls and broken through the gates of Mr Arafat's battered headquarters.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who travelled in the helicopter with Mr Arafat's body, told the BBC he had mixed feelings about the Ramallah crowds.

"I was really shocked, I kept screaming at the people, telling them: 'Please, he is your commander in chief... honour him.' There were some idea about taking off again with the planes - because it was too dangerous, people shooting and so on."

However, he said people should not judge the Palestinians on the chaos displayed at the funeral, but should look instead at the transition achieved so far and should support their call for elections.

The Palestinians would on Sunday call for presidential elections, which under Palestinian law have to be held within 60 days, he said.

Al-Aqsa soil

People worked through the night to prepare the grave, under some trees, next to the wreckage of buildings destroyed by the Israeli military.

Mr Arafat was buried using soil from the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, where Palestinians hope Mr Arafat's coffin can one day be taken - a move rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mr Arafat was confined to his compound by the Israelis for more than two and a half years, until he was flown to France two weeks ago.

Yasser Arafat was the embodiment of the Palestinian struggle
Muhammad Ebeid, Gaza Strip

The BBC News website's Martin Asser in Ramallah was told that a former prayer hall of Mr Arafat's - demolished by Israeli forces some time ago - was the site for the burial.

A huge tent has been erected at offices occupied by Mr Arafat before they were destroyed by the Israeli air force in 2002.

Israel did not allow ordinary Palestinians to travel to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.

Instead, Gaza City has been holding its own symbolic funeral service, with thousands of people taking part, including members of Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Both funeral ceremonies were shown live on Israeli television.

Military funeral

On Friday morning, heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers attended the military funeral - which was closed to the public - held in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Left to right: Ahmed Qurei, Mahmoud Abbas and Farouk Kaddoumi
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei - will take charge of the Palestinian Authority
Mahmoud Abbas - the former prime minister will lead the PLO, the umbrella body bringing together most Palestinian factions
Farouk Kaddoumi - will head the Fatah faction

Dignitaries included Jordan's King Abdullah II, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and US envoy Williams Burns were also there.

No Israeli officials attended.

The Palestinian and Egyptian national anthems were played before the coffin was placed on board a military plane headed for the West Bank.

A veiled Suha Arafat, the Palestinian leader's widow, and the couple's nine-year-old daughter Zahwa could be seen weeping.

Mrs Arafat, who rarely visits the Palestinian territories, did not go on to attend the service in the West Bank, reports say.

She was at the centre of a row with Mr Arafat's top lieutenants earlier this week over access to her husband in hospital.

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

See the chaotic scenes as Arafat's coffin arrives

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