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Arafat was pronounced dead at 3:30 am UTC on November 11 at the age of 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown.
On November 11, the French military Honor Guard held a funeral for Arafat at a military airport near Paris. President Jacques Chirac stood alone beside Arafat's body for about ten minutes in a last show of respect for a leader he hailed as, "a man of courage". The next day, Arafat was flown to Egypt's capital Cairo for another brief military funeral there, before his burial in Ramallah, later that day. The funeral was attended by several heads of states, prime ministers and foreign ministers. Egypt's top Muslim cleric Sayed Tantawi led mourning prayers preceding the funeral procession.
Israel refused Arafat's wish to be buried in or near al-Aqsa Mosque or anywhere in Jerusalem, citing widespread security concerns. Following his Cairo procession, Arafat was "temporarily" laid to rest within his former headquarters in Ramallah; the ceremony was watched by thousands of Palestinians. After Sheikh Taissir Tamimi discovered that Arafat was buried improperly and in a coffin – which is not in accordance with Islamic law – Arafat was reburied on the morning of November 13, at around 3:00 am.
Preparation for Burial
The climate of Palestine necessitated the quickest possible disposition of the corpse; interment, therefore, took place on the day of death (Deut. xxi. 23). In the time of Christ the body was washed, anointed with fragrant spices, and more or less completely wrapped in linen (Acts. ix. 37; Mark xvi. 1; John xi. 44). The Old Testament makes no allusion to this custom. The belief that the dead in Sheol might be recognized by the habit implies that in early times the corpse was buried in the apparel of daily life. Later, royalty and officials were buried with costly spices, ornaments, gold, and silver (Josephus, Ant., XIII. viii. 4; XV. iii. 4). And if the account by Josephus of the plundering of David's tomb by Hyrcanus and Herod may be trusted, this custom reached back into antiquity. Embalming was a custom foreign to the Hebrews; cases of it are Jacob and Joseph (Gen. l. 2, 26) and Aristobulus (Josephus, Ant., XIV. vii. 4). The use of coffins was post-exilic.
Police fired wildly into the air to keep back the surging crowd at the West Bank compound known as the Muqata. Frantic mourners surged toward the tomb as clerics recited prayers, trampling the olive tree saplings the were planted around the grave according to Islamic tradition.
Officials tried for 25 minutes to open the helicopter door to remove the coffin onto a jeep that had plowed through the crowd to clear a path. As the coffin was carried toward the gravesite, police jumped on top of it, waved their arms and flashed the victory sign. People chanted, "With our blood and our soul we will redeem you Yasser Arafat!"
Gunfire was heard on an almost continuous basis the compound area. Palestinian paramedics carrying stretchers ran frantically near the entrance, aiding the wounded demonstrators.
Gunmen holding assault rifles aloft by one hand fired long bursts into the air. Two mourners were reportedly lightly wounded by the gunfire. About 30 people were treated for fainting and other conditions related to the over-crowding. A steady stream of ambulances carried away the wounded. Even they had a hard time getting through the dense chanting mob.