Force 17 (Quwat Saba?tasher)

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FORCE 17 (Quwat Sabaʿtasher)

Palestinian security service established in 1974 and placed under the leadership of Ali Hassan Salameh (Abu al-Hassan, nicknamed "the Red Prince"), one of the principal figures of the Black September group. A commando unit with unquestioned loyalty to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat, the group is said to have taken its name from Salameh's Beirut telephone extension. Created by the Fatah Security Council, Force 17 replaced the Black September group, which had been dissolved by the head of the PLO. It was mainly responsible for Arafat's security and that of his close collaborators, as well as for particular missions connected directly to the PLO leader. Force 17 was also placed in charge of security for PLO representatives abroad. Salameh was assassinated in January 1979 in Beirut by an Israeli commando. He was succeeded in February at the head of the organization by Saʿad Sayel (Abu Walid), who was himself assassinated in September 1982 by a Syrian commando. Force 17, supervised by Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) and Khalil al-Wazir, then passed to the command of Mahmud Ahmad al-Natour (Abu Tayib). During the 1980s the organization carried out numerous attacks on Israeli interests and on Palestinian opponents. On 25 September 1985 a commando comprised of two Palestinians and a Briton assassinated three Israeli vacationers who were Mossad members; one of them was Sylvia Raphael, who was considered to be responsible for the death of Salameh. In November 1987, in Jerusalem, two Israelis who were presumed to belong to Shin Bet were killed by a commando who was believed to have been dispatched by Force 17. In 1994, as part of the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Force 17 was merged into the newly created Presidential Security Force, or Presidential Guard (al-Amn al-Ri'asa), one of the many security forces controlled directly by Yasir Arafat. At the end of 1996 Faisal Abu Shaqra took over the leadership of the organization. The Presidential Guard is officially charged with intelligence, counterterrorism, and protecting Arafat and other prominent Palestinian officials; according to Israeli sources, who continue to refer to it as Force 17, it has been engaged in violent anti-Israeli activities since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, and at least one of its senior officers has been assassinated by the Israelis.

SEE ALSO Aqsa Intifada, al-; Arafat, Yasir Muhammad; Black September 1970; Fatah Security Council; Khalaf, Salah; Palestine Liberation Organization; Shin Bet.