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Tens of Thousands View Arafat Funeral

Yasser Arafat returned to Ramallah on Friday, where he was laid to rest as tens-of-thousands of Palestinians came to say their final farewell.

Yasser Arafat came home Friday, to his Muqata compound in Ramallah, where he was laid to rest.

Tens-of-thousands of Palestinians, mostly young men, but also women and entire families, gathered around the Muqata, hours before his body arrived for burial.

By the time the helicopter carrying his remains touched down, the Muqata had become a sea of bodies, and it was difficult to see where the helicopters would be able to land. Somehow they managed it.

Then the shooting began, with dozens of armed men firing automatic rifles into the air in tribute. People waved the green, red, white and black Palestinian flags. They carried posters showing Yasser Arafat the way the world had known him, wearing brown military fatigues and a black-and-white-checkered kaffieh, the traditional Arab men's head covering.

Palestinians expressed a combination of grief at the loss of Yasser Arafat and pride for him as a leader.

A group of middle-aged men walked arm-in-arm down the middle of one of the streets leading up to the burial site, and sang songs of grief. Young men with keffieh scarves wrapped around their heads and necks joined in spontaneous chants, in praise of Yasser Arafat.

Because of the Israeli military closure and imposition of travel restrictions throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, most of the mourners came from nearby. But one Palestinian woman, Hannah, made her way by taxi through a half dozen Israeli checkpoints from her home in the Israeli city of Haifa to be here for the burial.

"We came for the funeral of Yasser Arafat and he leads the Palestinian people for their freedom," she said.

Unlike the stately ceremony provided for the Palestinian leader in France, or the military funeral in Cairo, this was the people's funeral, the people's farewell.