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Palestinians to open museum to longtime leader Arafat

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RAMALLAH: A museum dedicated to Yasser Arafat, including the room where the Palestinian leader spent much of his final years under Israeli siege, will open on Wednesday ahead of the anniversary of his death.

Current Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will formally open the Yasser Arafat Museum next to the gravesite of the fighter-turned-statesman in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The museum, which cost $7 million, is the first of its kind dedicated to the longtime leader, according to the Yasser Arafat Foundation.

The opening comes two days before Palestinians commemorate the 12th anniversary of his death in a hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 from unknown causes.

On display over two floors are a range of Arafat’s possessions, including the famous sunglasses he wore when addressing the United Nations in 1974.

The interactive museum also features videos and photographs of key moments in Palestinian history, some from Arafat’s private collection.

The Nobel Peace Prize, which Arafat won in 1994 along with his Israeli Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for the Oslo Peace Accord of the previous year, is on display too.

The final exhibit in the museum is the room where Arafat  holed up after Israeli tanks surrounded his headquarters during the second Palestinian intifada or uprising.

“People will get the chance to see Yasser Arafat’s legacy and history as a person and a political leader,” said museum director Mohammad Halayqa and the project had been years in the making.

“They will also see the main events the Palestinian cause went through in the last 100 years.”

Arafat rose to become the leader of the Palestinian movement after the creation of Israel in 1948, leading an armed struggle against it.

Decades later he disavowed violence and famously shook hands with Rabin on the White House lawn, though the peace the Oslo accords were supposed to bring never materialised.

More than a decade after his death, Arafat remains a towering figure in Palestinian culture, politics and society.

Palestinian politicians from across the political spectrum seek to present themselves as heirs to Arafat’s legacy.

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