Arafat Buried Following Chaotic Procession in Ramallah
Following a state funeral in Egypt the helicopter carrying the Palestinian leader’s casket arrived at the compound, known as the Muqata. Tens of thousands of mourners surrounded the helicopter, while hundreds of guards tried to open the helicopter’s door for 25 minutes to remove the coffin and place it on a jeep, the Associated Press reported.
As the coffin was carried to the burial site people chanted, “With our blood and our soul we will redeem you Yasser Arafat!”
Soil from Jerusalem’s al-Asqua mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, was placed on the Palestinian leader’s casket and a Palestinian flag and black-and-white headdress were placed on the white marble tomb, Reuters reported.
After Arafat’s body was laid to rest, Muslim clerics read Koranic verses and some mourners rushed the tomb, trampling traditional olive tree saplings planted along the grave.
“President Arafat would have wanted it this way, with exhilaration, feelings of loyalty, pain, sadness and love all at once,” Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said about the chaos surrounding Arafat’s funeral.
“The people reclaimed him. They wanted to say goodbye without the distance,” she added.
While Ashrawi had a positive spin on the mayhem, some mourners were disappointed.
“I wanted to say goodbye and I didn’t get a chance. I didn’t get a glimpse of his coffin,” Hadeje Abu Sharif, a diabetic who fainted during the chaos, told the Associated Press.
“We have no organization. If we had it, we would have a state,” Shairf added.
The tomb is considered only a temporary burial place for Arafat by Palestinians who hope that ultimately the leader will be buried in Jerusalem.
Arafat’s state funeral in Egypt had heavy security measures in place with the service beginning at a mosque and ending in a procession with presidents and leaders from around the world.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Farouk Kaddoumi, the new leader of the Fatah organization, were among some of the leaders who marched behind the casket, according to the AP.
The United States, which has said that Arafat was an obstacle to peace, sent Assistant Secretary of State Williams Burns. Israel did not send a representative.
Arafat’s widow, Suha, and their 9-year-old daughter, Zahwa, cried as the casket was loaded onto an Egyptian military plan bound for the West Bank for Arafat’s burial.
The 75-year-old Palestinian leader died Thursday from an undisclosed illness. The secrecy of the cause of death has spawned rumors, ranging from stomach cancer to Israel poisoning the Palestinian leader.