Tens of thousands of Palestinians give Arafat emotional farewell
Yasser Arafat was laid to rest Friday after a mass funeral in the West Bank. To the cheers of tens of thousands of Palestinians, and with shots in the air fired by Palestinian security members, two Egyptian helicopters carrying the body of Yasser Arafat and accompanying Palestinian leaders, landed Friday noon in Ramallah near the burial site prepared for the Palestinian president.
The burial ceremony in the West Bank compound, the area to which Israel confined Arafat for nearly three years, followed a funeral ceremony earlier in the day in Cairo.
As the copters touched down in Ramallah, thousands surged forward in an attempt to touch the craft and reach the body of their admired leader, to the consternation of the police guarding the area. 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.
Jostling mourners out of the way, an SUV driven by Palestinian police eventually stormed a path through the throng, in a bid to reach the helicopter and transfer the casket to the area in which it was to lie in state prior to burial. Nine APalestinians were wounded during the funeral.
Earlier, tens of thousands of Palesinian youths had burst into the compound without authorization, joining additional thousands gathered for the ceremony.
Palestinians continued to stream into the area throughout the afternoon, with 140 buses leaving various sections of the West Bank to get to Ramallah, 100 buses leaving from East Jerusalem and another 20 from the Gaza Strip.
"President Arafat would have wanted it this way, with exhilaration, feelings of loyalty, pain, sadness and love all at once," Palestinian deputy Hanan Ashrawi told The Associated Press. "The people reclaimed him. They wanted to say goodbye without distance."
"It is not what we expected," said Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. "At the same time, we had to do the burial before sunset in Islamic tradition. ... I expected much better, more organized, but things got out of hand, unfortunately." (albawaba.com)