Palestians arrange funeral for Arafat at West Bank HQ

Details of the funeral of Yasser Arafat were being agreed by Palestinian officials yesterday as their leader clung to life in a French military hospital, after Israel gave permission for him to be buried in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mr Arafat is expected to die within hours and, if he does, a state funeral, attended by Arab and other foreign leaders, will take place in Cairo tomorrow, it emerged last night. His body will then be flown to the West Bank and laid to rest in the Muqata compound where he had been under house arrest for the past two and a half years.

The leaders of Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Brazil will attend Mr Arafat's funeral, an aide to the Palestinian Foreign Minister announced. Many other countries will also send representatives, but it remains unclear at which level, said Majdi Khaldi, an aide to Nabil Shaath.

Meanwhile the US President George Bush said he saw an opening for negotiating peace with a new Palestinian leadership, declaring: "I think we've got a chance."

Israel and the Palestinians reached a compromise between Israel's desire to see him buried in Gaza and his own wish to be buried in the Old City of Jerusalem. Bulldozers began clearingdebris left by the Israeli onslaught on the compound two years ago to make a space for Mr Arafat's last resting place under a clump of Aleppo pine trees in the precincts of the British-built fort. A few hundred Arafat supporters marched on the Muqata yesterday, chanting slogans such as "Arafat is the leader. Arafat is Palestine".

Egypt is a convenient location for Arab leaders who refuse to recognise the state of Israel or to travel to the occupied territories until a fully independent Palestinian state is formed. It also has the advantage of being Mr Arafat's birthplace, although he claimed he was born in Jerusalem where he spent much of his childhood.

Leila Shahid, the Palestine Liberation Organisation envoy in Paris, said Taisser Bayoud Tamimi, the cleric who heads the Islamic court for the West Bank and Gaza, had been praying for his recovery and reading the Koran at Mr Arafat's bedside in "the final phase of life". The cleric repeated that Islam outlawed any move to switch off Mr Arafat's life support and added: "It is absolutely rejected. As long as there are signs of life in the body of the President, he will remain under treatment."

His resting place of Muqata was occupied by the Israelis in Ramallah between 1967 and 1994, and after the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Mr Arafat moved between the Muqata and a similar compound in Gaza City. At the height of the conflict during the Palestinian uprising, Israeli forces laid siege to the compound three times. In the third attack, in September 2002,they cut off Mr Arafat in a corner where he continued to live until he was transported to Paris for treatment on 29 October. Israel did not ­ until his last journey ­ give permission for him to return if he left Ramallah.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, was said by an Israeli official to have told cabinet ministers that when Mr Arafat's dies, "we don't have to allow him to become a hero". Mr Sharon, who as defence minister ordered the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to drive out Mr Arafat and the PLO, has frequently been quoted as saying he wished Mr Arafat had been killed at the time.

Palestinian officials confirmed yesterday that Rawhi Fattouh, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, would temporarily assume the office of President after Mr Arafat's death, though sharing his de facto powers with Ahmed Qureia, the Prime Minister, and his predecessor Abu Mazen, secretary general and acting chairman of the PLO.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high