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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 05:44 GMT
Palestinians mourn Yasser Arafat
Mourners surge around the helicopter carrying Yasser Arafat's coffin
The security forces struggled to control the crowd
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.

Thousands of people surged into his battered compound as Arafat's remains arrived on a helicopter, following a military funeral in Egypt.

Palestinian policemen fired into the air to clear a way for the coffin.

By nightfall most of the crowd had dispersed, leaving a ring of soldiers guarding Arafat's grave.

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

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.

Chaos and emotion

The burial took place amid tumultuous scenes.

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

Arafat's body was lowered into a marble and stone grave.

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

He was buried using soil 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.

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.

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


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

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

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.

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

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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