Israel has been investigating the possibility the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat died of AIDS, while the Palestinians said yesterday they would set up an official commission of inquiry into Arafat’s demise amid rumors among some Palestinians that he was poisoned.

Arafat’s official cause of death has not been released by the Paris hospital in which he was treated because French law prohibits distribution of medical records to anyone other than immediate family. Arafat’s widow, Suha, refuses to divulge any details of his illness.

Arafat’s doctors and Palestinian leaders have ruled out the possibility he died of poisoning, although Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to accuse Israel of killing Arafat.

The Israeli intelligence community the past few days has been using what they know about Arafat’s symptoms and the information surrounding his hospitalization to determine, along with medical experts, the most likely cause of death. Sources have said AIDS is being considered, and seems to fit with some of the results of Arafat’s blood chemistry, including a low blood platelet count that indicates a weakened immune system – a characteristic of the disease.

While Arafat was sick, some publicly speculated he was dying of AIDS.

The homosexual site, 365Gay.com, which deals regularly with issues related to HIV/AIDS, ran a piece reminding readers that, for several years, it has been suggested Arafat is bisexual, and could have contracted the disease.

“If suggestions that Arafat has AIDS are true, it is doubtful it would be made public,” wrote 365Gay.com European bureau chief Malcolm Thornberry.

National Review diarist David Frum suggested in a column Arafat contracted AIDS from homosexual sex with his bodyguards.

Ion Pacepa, who was deputy chief of Romanian foreign intelligence under the Ceaucescu regime and who defected to the West in 1978, says in his memoirs the Romania government bugged Arafat and had recordings of the Arab leader in orgies with his security detail.

Various Israeli security sources have in the past suggested publicly Arafat might be homosexual. They’ve claimed Arafat’s former personal driver – a Mossad double agent – used to find teenage boys to bring back to the PLO leader. His wife, Suha, mostly lived abroad and rarely saw her husband.

France’s Le Monde newspaper yesterday quoted unnamed doctors who say they treated Arafat as believing he died of a blood clotting disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

The condition is described as “the complete disruption of the mechanisms which normally assure proper blood clotting … It can lead to major internal bleeding and possible death.”

DIC is usually triggered in a person Arafat’s age by either infection or a cancer, but his doctors have publicly stated they found no indication of either.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians set up a commission that will take testimony from Palestinian and other Arab doctors in an effort to remove questions surrounding Arafat’s death.

One commission member, Palestinian Minister of Health Jawad Tibi, said he is planning to visit France to pursue the investigation.

The French government insisted again yesterday Arafat was not poisoned, but said it would not release Arafat’s medical records to the public. They said any information would have to be obtained from Arafat’s family.

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