Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

'Moderate' Reason to Conclude Arafat Was Killed by Polonium: Swiss Experts

Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had exceptionally high levels of a radioactive substance in his body at the time of his death, though that fact does not conclusively prove he was assassinated, Swiss researchers said at a Thursday press conference.

The manner of Arafat's 2004 death at a French military hospital following a severe stroke has caused Palestinians for years to speculate he was murdered by one of his many political enemies, including possibly Israel. The Palestinian Liberation Front leader's remains were unearthed last year so genetic samples could be removed and transferred for laboratory testing in Europe.

Laboratory analysis by Swiss scientists from the Vaudois University Hospital Centre revealed levels of polonium 18 times above normal, BBC News reported.

Such high levels "by definition … indicates third party involvement," Professor Francois Bochud told journalists. "Our results offer moderate backing for the theory of poisoning."

The scientists said they could not conclusively say whether Arafat was poisoned due to "chain of custody" issues with some of the biological samples, not enough specimens to examine and the amount of time that had passed since death.

Bochud said, "we cannot show categorically that hypothesis that the poisoning caused was this or that."

The French government last summer opened up a murder investigation into Arafat's death. Russian and French scientists are still conducting their own testing of the Palestinian leader's remains.

Arafat's widow told the BBC she knew her husband had been murdered.

"I can't accuse anybody," Suha Arafat said. "Everybody wants to accuse Israel … I can't jump into conclusion."

The Palestine Liberation Organization on Thursday demanded an international investigation be opened into Arafat's death, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The results proved Arafat was poisoned by polonium, and this substance is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state," PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said.

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • CNS Global Incidents and Trafficking Database

    March 5, 2015

    Providing free and open access to centralized information on nuclear and other radioactive material that has been lost, stolen, or is otherwise out of regulatory control, the Global Incidents and Trafficking Database and Report prepared by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) offers researchers and policymakers a unique resource to assess the nature and scope of nuclear security risks.

  • Latin America and the Caribbean 1540 Reporting

    Oct. 20, 2014

    This report is part of a collection examining implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in Central America, South America and the Caribbean to-date.

Country Profile

Flag of Israel


This article provides an overview of Israel's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →