Report: Palestinian confessed to poisoning Arafat in 2006
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The pan-Arab satellite channel Al Mayadeen on Friday broadcast a tape of a Palestinian allegedly confessing to poisoning the late President Yasser Arafat's food on behalf of Israeli intelligence.
The video was allegedly recorded in Israel's Negev prison in 2006 and shows a Palestinian prisoner suspected of being planted in the jail as a spy for Israel. He is said to have been interrogated by another detainee.
The unnamed prisoner tells his "interrogator" that he put poison in Arafat's food in the kitchen of the Muqata, the presidential compound in Ramallah, with the help of a cook.
The prisoner says he was recruited by Israel's intelligence service in 2002. Another collaborator had taken him to Jerusalem for work, and introduced him to a man named Yoram who recruited him as a collaborator.
He was given a military uniform and trained with Israeli soldiers for two months, he says. Then he was taken to Jerusalem where Israeli officers showed him and several other collaborators a video about the Muqata, including Arafat's room and the kitchen.
He says the group of collaborators was ordered to poison Arafat and received payment in June or July 2004. They were given poison and told they would be killed if they did not carry out the poisoning, he says.
The man then explains how he and other collaborators accessed the Muqata with the cooperation of one of the compound's guards.
According to his account, the cooks were wearing kitchen uniforms and Arafat's food was ready, but the first cook refused to add the poison. Another agreed and put it in Arafat's rice and soup.
The Palestinian Authority agreed on Wednesday to exhume Arafat's body after new allegations that he was poisoned with the radioactive element polonium-210 in 2004.
A Swiss institute that examined clothing provided by Arafat's widow Suha as part of an Al Jazeera expose said it found "surprisingly" high levels of polonium-210, though symptoms described in the president's medical reports were not consistent with the radioactive agent.
Arafat was confined to the Muqata by Israel for three years after the second intifada erupted.
He collapsed in October 2004, and foreign doctors flocked to his bedside from Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan amid public assurances from Arafat's aides over the next two weeks that he was suffering from no more than the flu.
But looking weak and thin, he was airlifted to a military hospital in France, where he slipped into a coma and died on Nov. 11, 2004.
French doctors who treated Arafat in his final days said they could not establish the cause of death. French officials, citing privacy laws, refused to give details of the nature of his illness.
Israeli Army Radio said Wednesday that introducing polonium into food was the only way to kill someone with the poison and asked Avi Dichter, who headed Israel's spy agency at the time, whether it would have been possible with Arafat.
"You're asking me as his cook?" he answered, laughing.
He continued: "No, we were focused on more serious things. Arafat's food did not interest us. I think it interested those around him, in order, really, to keep his health up, as he was indeed known to be unwell. But the Shin Bet, or the State of Israel, were not involved in Yasser Arafat's food."
Reuters contributed to this report.