Stroke, Infection Killed Arafat

Yasser Arafat salutes, Palestinian leader, 8-10-04
A massive stroke caused by a mysterious infection killed longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last year, though it remains unclear what led to the rapid deterioration of his health, according to French medical records kept secret since his death.

The records, from the military hospital outside Paris where Arafat died and obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, offered the first independent glimpse into his final days after months of questions and controversy, from rumors he died of AIDS to Palestinian accusations that the Israelis poisoned him.

Yet the report did nothing to clarify the nature of the infection that caused the 75-year-old leader's stroke. The medical dossier initially was obtained by The New York Times and two Israeli media outlets, which conducted separate reviews of the information, resulting in different explanations for the cause of the stroke and deepening the puzzle.

"The mystery around Yasser Arafat will only grow bigger and bigger after reading this report," said Avi Isacharoff, the Israel Radio reporter who obtained the medical records with the Israeli daily Haaretz. He shared the contents of the dossier with AP.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, an Arafat nephew and one of the few people who had access to the leader and his French doctors, also said the revealed reports shed no new light and the cause of death remains unknown.

Arafat fell ill in his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where he had been confined by the Israelis for three years, a month before he died. He spent his last two weeks at the Percy Military Training Hospital in Clamart, France.

Arafat's wife, Suha, and Palestinian officials have never given a definitive cause of death and kept Arafat's medical records a closely guarded secret. Mrs. Arafat also rejected calls for an autopsy.

The Israeli reporters got the records from an unidentified senior Palestinian official, then shared the information with the Times, which conducted its own review. Israeli and American medical experts were consulted.