x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Arafat political heir accused of poisoning the former Palestinian leader in 2004

In a bizarre attack on Mohammed Dahlan, the one-time heir apparent to Yasser Arafat is being accused of poisoning to death the late Palestinian fighter who became president.

JERUSALEM // In a bizarre attack on Mohammed Dahlan, the one-time heir apparent to Yasser Arafat is being accused of poisoning to death the late Palestinian fighter who became president.

A report released on Sunday by members of the West Bank's ruling Fatah faction says Mr Dahlan, 49, sent poison disguised as medicine to Arafat before he died in a Paris hospital in 2004.

Mr Dahlan, who was expelled from Fatah in June, had for months argued publicly with the faction's chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as president of the Palestinian Authority.

While claiming that he also stole US$300 million (Dh1.1bn) for Palestinian security forces, the report's timing and ambiguity raises speculation of a politically motivated attack on Mr Dahlan by his estranged allies.

Compiled by senior Fatah members who were apparently supportive of his ouster from the faction, the report offers few details other than Mr Dalhan's alleged ordering of Arafat's bodyguards to burn the poisoned medicine vials.

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Mr Dahlan disputed the report and described the accusations as little more than a political sideshow.

"There are false and baseless accusations of Abbas and his people, they are clearing Israel of Arafat's blood," he said, referring to general Palestinian suspicion of Israeli involvement in Arafat's mysterious death.

"If Abbas spent his time preparing for independence instead of fighting me, he would have won."

Mr Dahlan has long been a source of scorn for Palestinians, many of whom equate perceptions of his extravagant lifestyle with general corruption among their political elites.

In 2007, he fell out of favour with the Palestinian leaders when Hamas rivals overran the US-backed security forces that he headed in the Gaza Strip.

His feud with the Palestinian president erupted into public view late last year when he criticised Mr Abbas and his family's business dealings.

Unconfirmed reports went as far as to accuse Mr Dahlan of attempting to build a private militia in a grab for power.

In December, a report said the Palestinian Authority shut down a television station that he owned, before his blacklisting that month, from participating in Fatah Central Committee meetings.

hnaylor@thenational.ae