Recent speculation that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death continued over the weekend when Lebanese television released a video apparently showing a Palestinian prisoner in Israel confessing that he was recruited by Israeli security forces to poison Arafat.
In the video released Friday, which appears to have been filmed in 2006, a Palestinian prisoner in the Ketziot prison is seen "interrogating" another Palestinian inmate who confesses that he was sent by Israel to kill the late Palestinian leader.
The prisoner claims in the video that, together with a group of Palestinian collaborators, he poisoned Arafat by putting toxic substances in his food while the Palestinian leader was barricaded in his Ramallah compound in 2004.
According to the video, the prisoner was apparently recruited by Israeli security forces in 2002. After a series of training sessions at an Israel Defense Forces base, he said he and the other Palestinians were instructed to infiltrate the Mukataa, Arafat's compound, where with the help of collaborators who were in charge of securing the building, they managed to convince one of the cooks to insert poison into the rice and soup served to Arafat.
The prisoner said the Israeli security forces paid him and the others a generous amount for poisoning Arafat, but also made clear that if they did not perform the task, they would be killed.
Meanwhile, during a press conference in Paris on Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Ramallah would not object to having Arafat's body dug up from his grave to see if he was poisoned, if Arafat's family submitted an official request for it.
Abbas noted, however, that the Palestinian Authority had not yet received any formal request to open Arafat's grave.
The Palestinian Authority president said the Palestinians would launch an investigation into the circumstances of Arafat's death after a Swiss lab said last week it had found elevated levels of a lethal radioactive isotope on Arafat’s belongings.
Abbas said he even raised the issue with French President Francois Hollande, as Arafat died at the Percy Military Hospital near Paris in 2004.
An Israeli counter-terrorism expert on Thursday discarded the recent allegations that Arafat died by poisoning and claimed that traces of polonium-210 found on the his personal belongings were planted long after Arafat's death.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Dr. Eli Karmon of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's Institute for Counter-Terrorism said that recent allegations that Arafat was poisoned with highly radioactive polonium are not based on facts.
According to a recent report on the Qatari based news network Al-Jazeera, abnormally high levels of polonium were found on organic remains on the deceased Arab leader's personal belongings.
The polonium traces were analyzed by Swiss specialists after Arafat's widow, Suha, agreed to provide Al-Jazeera with a few personal items that belonged to the former Palestinian president.
However, Karmon said that it was impossible that after eight years there were still high levels of polonium, if Arafat had indeed been poisoned with the substance.
"If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. We suspect that someone had planted the high level of polonium-210 recently into the clothes of Arafat," said Karmon in an exclusive interview with CCTV on Saturday.
Karmon also added that if it were true that Arafat's belonging had traces of polonium, the places where those items were kept would also retain traces of the radioactive substance.
"Did Al-Jazeera check the home of Suha Arafat in Paris and Malta where she kept the items for traces of polonium?" asked Karmon, since Al-Jazeera's report did not include those analysis.
"If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too? She touched these things and Arafat in the hospital," he added.
"The Palestinian side has also made investigation since Arafat died in 2004, finding that people around Arafat, including those who had dined with him, have no signs of intoxication," he said.
Since the TV network released the report, the mystery and speculations surrounding Arafat's death were revived once again, after suspicions of poisoning during Arafat's illness and subsequent death led the Palestinian National Authority to point a finger to Israel.
"We know that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would issue a nuclear smuggling report saying that the nuclear smuggling activities were quite rampant recently. So the ordinary people can get the radioactive elements from the black market of nuclear smuggling," said Karmon.