WASHINGTON (JTA) — Fatah officials charged Israel with assassinating Yasser Arafat, yet conceded they had no proof.
They made the charges Wednesday during a stormy congress of the mainstream Palestinian national movement, the first in 20 years and since Arafat’s death in 2004, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Arafat died in Paris after being rushed there for emergency treatment. Israel had effectively imprisoned the longtime Palestinian leader in his headquarters in Ramallah in his final years because it held him responsible for the violence of the second Intifada.
French doctors said the cause of death was undetermined but dismissed poisoning, suggesting instead it was an infection. His widow, Suha, refused an autopsy.
Officials at the Fatah congress said Wednesday that they would leave the case open and asked for international assistance to determine the cause of death.
Mahmoud Abbas, the movement’s leader and the Palestinian Authority president, extended the conference a day in a bid to resolve a number of issues, including representation for the younger generation among the leadership, unity negotiations with Fatah rivals Hamas, and how to account for at least 400 delegates from the Gaza Strip who were banned from attending by Hamas.