Shortly after his coffin was lowered on Friday into a marble-and-stone grave, the crowd began a prayer joined by Palestinian leaders, including newly appointed Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) chairman Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya.

Arafat had been due to lie in state before the burial, but the programme was disrupted by chaos at the compound, where thousands of mourners surged past security forces.

"He was buried ahead of time because of the emotion of the crowd. We had no choice," one official said.     

Wounded by gunfire

Before the burial, thousands of mourners rushed to the coffin and police fired into the air to disperse the crowd that held up the removal of his body from the aircraft that flew in from Egypt. 

Medics said four people were wounded by gunfire in the
crowd.

Arafat, who became a Third World liberation icon and won a Nobel Peace Prize, died at the age 75 in a French hospital on Thursday from an undetermined cause. 

The chaotic scenes in Ram Allah were in sharp contrast to a funeral service earlier at a Cairo air base, where the public was kept away and even some world leaders were mistakenly shut out by overzealous Egyptian guards. 

A few kilometres from the burial site, an explosion in a car
killed two people in a reminder of the continuing violence in the region.