The remains of Yasser Arafat have been exhumed as experts try to ascertain whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned. The probe comes less than a week after the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel and precedes a UN vote on Palestine’s nation status. Traces of a radioactive substance were found of Arafat’s effects in July, adding impetus to the theory he was murdered. The procedure began at 05:00 GMT and was carried out in the presence of French, Russian and Swiss experts to verify its validity. Scientists took samples of Arafat’s bones, which they will take back to their respective countries. There they will be analyzed for traces of radioactive material and other lethal substances. Experts have said a full investigation into the causes of Arafat’s death could take several months. Journalists were prohibited from attending the exhumation “because [of the] sanctity of the symbol and the sanctity of this event,” a former Palestinian intelligence chief told AFP. A probe was launched back in August following a documentary by Qatar-backed channel Al Jazeera. The documentary claimed that traces of plutonium-210 were discovered on items belonging to the iconic figure. Scientists from the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics at Lausanne University found “significant traces” that exceeded normal levels by 10 times in some samples. However, investigators conceded that Arafat’s symptoms according to his medical records were not consistent with radioactive poisoning. Arafat, who was made the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, became ill in October 2004. His condition worsened so severely over the subsequent two weeks that he was transferred to a French military hospital in Paris, where he died in the November. The former leader’s medical records describe the cause of his death as a stroke brought on by a blood disorder of unknown origin, but rumors are rife in Palestine that Arafat was poisoned by Israel. The Israeli government has repeatedly denied these accusations.