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Row intensifies over Arafat's final resting place

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Row intensifies over Arafat's final resting place

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Friday prayers were marked by deep mourning in Jerusalem.

There were tears and sadness for ordinary Palestinians, who came in droves to honour their ailing leader, remembering his prayers, just a year ago: “God willing, next year a Palestinian child will raise the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem, its minarets and its mosques,” said Arafat. Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital: Arafat’s dream will probably never come true, nor will his dream to be buried there. Israel is staunchly opposed to it. Foreign Affairs minister Sylvan Shalom: “The Isreali government will never allow him to come, to bury him in Jerusalem. we think it’s not an appropriate place to bury him here.” Arafat wants to be laid to rest in Jerusalem’s Old City at what Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary – or Temple Mount for Jews. But that is Judaism’s holiest site. Danny Rubinstein from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “It’s a very symbolic step, so Israel will not let Arafat be buried in Jerusalem because it might be interpreted as Israeli recognition that they have some political rights in Jerusalem.” Israel hopes to limit Arafat’s burial options. It has put forward the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Arafat lived holed up in his headquarters for the past few years. Arafat’s father and sister are both buried in the Gaza Strip, another alternative which would ease Israel’s security headache. Against a backdrop of rising tensions over Arafat’s condition, Israeli forces have gone on alert bracing for a possible outbreak of Palestinian violence in the event of their leader’s death. The Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis is also an option. But that is simply not acceptable for Palestinians: “The Al Aqsa mosque is in Jerusalem,” said one resident. “I think that’s where he should be buried.” “God willing, we will fulfill his every wish even if our own life is at risk,” said another. “Even if we die, if we pay dearly with everything we own, we will fulfill his wish.” In 2001, when the Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini died, tens of thousands of Palestinians marched on Jerusalem, defying Israel’s opposition to his burial in the Holy City.