Palestinians Begin Opening Arafat's Grave Ahead of Exhumation

Work is part of investigation into death of former Palestinian president, who died in 2004, amid allegations he was poisoned.

Work began Tuesday to open Yasser Arafat's grave, ahead of exhuming his body in an attempt to determine the cause of his death, a senior official on the committee investigating the 2004 demise of the former Palestinian president said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it would take around two weeks to remove the several tons of concrete covering the grave, but that the work will be completed by the time a Swiss team arrives in Ramallah on November 26 to take samples from Arafat's remains.

A French investigating team is also set to arrive in Ramallah on the same day to take samples for its own investigation.

At the request of the Palestinian Authority, a Russian team will also be at the site.

The Swiss team had previously found traces of the poisonous radioactive material polonium on Arafat's clothes, leading to allegations he was poisoned.

Arafat's widow, Suha, had filed a lawsuit at a French court asking for an investigation.

Arafat died in a French hospital on November 11, 2004. Medical records showed he died of a brain hemorrhage, caused by a bowel infection.

But an investigation by broadcaster Al Jazeera and a Swiss laboratory in July found traces of polonium on his clothes, raising fears of radioactive poisoning. Some Palestinians blame Israel for his death.

Arafat's grave was made off-limits to the public on Monday, ahead of the excavation work.

The burial site is located on the premise of the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, where Arafat's office and residence were located and where he was under Israeli military siege for four years until his death in November 2004.