In a plot reminiscent of the Shakespearian demise of King Hamlet, a former aide to Yasser Arafat
said Wednesday that he believed an Israeli assassin killed the Palestinian leader by blowing a slow-acting poison into his ear.
Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who worked closely with Arafat, did not offer evidence to back his accusations, and Israeli officials dismissed them as slander.
"It was easy to poison him in the ear, because he was under siege and he used to receive a lot of people and he used to hug them to kiss them and my assumption is that the perpetrator carried a small balloon of gas and he could blow it in Arafat's ear," he said.
Arafat was 75 when he died in a French military hospital November 11, 2004. The medical report was inconclusive and the cause of his death remains shrouded in mystery, fueling rumors among Palestinians that he was poisoned and among Israelis that he died of AIDS.
Several senior Palestinian officials insist he was poisoned, but also gave no proof. On Sunday, Farouk
Kaddoumi, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's mainstream Fatah faction, demanded the UN Security Council open an investigation into "the assassination of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat." Israel
reiterated its long-standing denial on Wednesday.
"That is nonsense. That claim is totally baseless," Israeli government spokesman David Baker said of Abdel Rahman's accusation.
Abdel Rahman said he traced the origin of Arafat's illness to September 25, 2003.
"Arafat suffered an infection in his ear and on that day we invited many doctors from here and Jordan
to diagnose his illness. I believed it was a slow poison," he said. "In 16 days he lost 13 kilos. Since that day his ear continued hurting him and I noticed a constant deterioration in his health." Abdel Rahman recalled the bungled attempt in 1997 to kill Khaled Mashal
, a Hamas leader, when Israeli Mossad
agents injected him with poison darts in Jordan.
"It used the same way with Arafat, that is what I believe," he said.
, who was the Mossad chief at the time of the attack on Mashal, dismissed the latest claim, saying an autopsy was conducted by the French authorities, proving there was no basis to these lies.
"This is just another Palestinian manipulation whose purpose is to slander Israel," he said in a statement.