Clashes in West Bank on anniversary of Arafat death

Clashes in West Bank on anniversary of Arafat death
Many Palestinians have been injured during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank as they mark the death anniversary of President Yasser Arafat, while accusations over his death resurface.
5 min read
11 November, 2015
Yasser Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris aged 75 in November 2004 [Getty]

Dozens of Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank on Wednesday, the anniversary of the death of their leader, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian health ministry said.

At least four people were wounded by live ammunition in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, the ministry said, adding that doctors were operating to try to save the life of one person shot in the heart.

Another six Palestinians were hit with live ammunition in clashes in the city of Tulkarem, north of Tel Aviv.

In total, "62 citizens were injured by live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets during clashes with the Israeli occupation in Tulkarem, Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Bethlehem."

The Israeli army said its forces had responded to attacks.

“Rioters attacked forces and hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at them. The forces then responded,” including with live fire, the statement said.

Between 200 and 300 Palestinians, flanked by a yellow truck playing nationalist songs, marched towards Israeli forces in Al-Bireh, with youths throwing stones and rolling burning tires towards security forces.

Those forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at the crowds in a bid to disperse them.

In Gaza City, around 2,000 Palestinian protested outside the offices of the United Nations, with many holding signs venerating Arafat. There were no reports of violence.

The 11th death anniversary of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat comes amid a weeks-long wave of violence that has raised fears of a new Palestinian uprising.

At least 77 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since September, including children and teenagers, and thousands more have been injured.

Israel 'behind' death of Arafat

     Many Palestinians believe that Israel poisoned Arafat and the Palestinian probe into his death has accused the Jewish state of assassinating him before

The head of the Palestinian team looking into the death of Arafat accused Israel again on Tuesday of assassinating the iconic Palestinian leader in a Paris hospital.

His comments come two months after French judges closed an investigation into claims he was murdered, without bringing any charges.

"The inquiry committee has been able to identify the assassin of former president Yasser Arafat," said Tawfiq Tirawi, the head of the probe opened in 2009.

"Israel is responsible," he said, without giving further details other than to add that "we still need some time to elucidate the exact circumstances of this assassination".

Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris aged 75 in November 2004 after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

His widow Suha lodged a complaint at a court in France in 2012, claiming that her husband was assassinated, sparking an inquiry.

The same year, Arafat's tomb in Ramallah was opened for a few hours allowing three teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators to collect around 60 samples.

Many Palestinians believe that Israel poisoned Arafat and the Palestinian probe into his death has accused the Jewish state of assassinating him before - a charge Israel flatly denies.

A French inquiry into the death of the Nobel Prize winner closed their case in September without bringing any charges, as did a previous Russian probe. Suha Arafat is appealing the French decision.

Hamas hands over Arafat's Gaza home to his Fatah party


The comments come as Gaza's Hamas rulers handed over the house of Yasser Arafat to officials from his Fatah party, with the intention of turning it to a museum for the iconic leader.

The house has been closed since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 after routing the Palestinian Authority's forces and ousting Fatah under the leadership of Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, in bloody street battles.

The ceremony was attended by officials from all Palestinian factions and took place on the eve of the anniversary of Arafat's death.

During his final years, at the height of the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, Arafat lived under Israeli siege in the presidential compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

After taking over the Gaza Strip, Hamas has harassed and tortured Fatah supporters and barred most of their public activities.

Fatah was allowed to mark Arafat's death anniversary only once, in 2007, and Hamas used lethal force to disperse the rally, killing at least six.

The two movements signed a reconciliation deal in 2014 and formed a transitional government to end the political split between Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas has barely given up any control in Gaza, insisting the Palestinian Authority pay salaries for some 40,000 employees Hamas hired to run Gaza since 2007. But the tension between Hamas and Fatah has eased in recent months.

The two parties have made symbolic gestures. Handing over of Arafat's house was one of them.

Arafat artefacts

The house, located near a security compound under Hamas' control, is full of Arafat artefacts.

Old computer screens and photocopy machines sit on desks on the first floor.

Arafat's military uniforms are laid out on his bed.

The walls are adorned with pictures of Arafat and his wife and daughter.

It was the first time the house was opened to the media.

Jameel al-Majdalawi, a board member of the Yasser Arafat Foundation, told The Associated Press that the establishment "will work on transforming this house to a national museum for all our people, where we will collect the heritage of this peerless leader."

Palestinian factions' representatives sat on the second floor of the house, which has a wide living and dining room. Zakaria al-Agha, the top Fatah official in Gaza, said "this house is the mother and father's home for us and we hope that Hamas follows this step with more steps to end the division."

Ismail Haniya, Hamas' Gaza chief, said handing over the house on the anniversary on Arafat's death emphasised that the case of the leader's assassination remains open and is a national issue. Hamas believes Arafat was poisoned by Israel.