The body of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is returning to the Middle East for a funeral in Cairo Friday.
The 75-year-old champion of Palestinian statehood died early today (Thursday) in Paris, after a week-long coma. French doctors have not said what illness led to his death.
Mr. Arafat's coffin left Paris on a French military jet this (Thursday) evening, after a brief farewell ceremony.
Egyptian officials were preparing for the high security ceremonies at a military club in northern Cairo. Plans call for prayer services followed by a military funeral late Friday morning.
Mr. Arafat will be buried in the West Bank at his Muqata command compound in Ramallah, where he lived for the past 35 months under virtual Israeli house arrest.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees in camps across the Middle East received news of Mr. Arafat's death with grief and resolve. In Lebanon, Palestinians burned Israeli and American flags, while others vowed to pursue Mr. Arafat's dream of Palestinian statehood.
Fearing violence, Israel immediately sealed the West Bank and Gaza. At least four Palestinians were killed there by Israeli troops in the hours after Mr. Arafat's death.