Popularity of Arafat growing in West Bank

Nov. 3, 2007 at 4:55 PM

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- West Bank residents are increasingly embracing the late Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat years after his death, a report says.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reported Saturday that while Arafat died in 2004 from a mysterious illness, his popularity in the West Bank has only increased as a mausoleum is being built where he spent his last two years.

Thanks in part to the nearly completed mausoleum in the city of Ramallah, residents in the West Bank and even the Gaza Strip have begun honoring the late Palestinian leader in public.

While Arafat's reign was tumultuous and never short on conflict, regional pollster Jamil Rabah said his memory has taken on mythic proportions from his supporters and critics alike, the newspaper reported.

"People view him much, much, much better than when he was alive. I can't exaggerate how much," Rabah told the newspaper. "Even those who were against Arafat, who were ardent enemies of Arafat, say 'I wish he was here.'"

Arafat's body is expected to be relocated to the Ramallah mausoleum next Saturday as part of major ceremony to the late leader's regional efforts.

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