Jibril, Ahmad (1935–2002)

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JIBRIL, AHMAD (1935–2002)

Palestinian political figure born in 1935, near Ramla, in Palestine. Having taken refuge in Syria in 1948, at the time of the first Israeli-Arab conflict, Ahmad Jibril joined the Syrian army in 1952, becoming a captain. He was expelled from the army in 1958 at the time of the creation of the United Arab Republic. He briefly worked with Fatah in 1965 and then created a fidaʾiyyun group, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF).

In 1967, after the Arab defeat in the Arab-Israel War of 1967, he participated in the creation of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), headed by George Habash and Nayif Hawatma, and born of a merging of the PLF and the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM). The following year, in disagreement with George Habash, he quit the PFLP to found the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which put armed struggle before political action. The PFLPGC, whose headquarters was in Syria, made itself known on 21 February 1970 by blowing up, in flight, a Swissair plane directed toward Tel Aviv. In the following year, the PFLP-GC carried out many attacks on Israeli soil. In March 1974, three of Jibril's closest collaborators died in an automobile accident, causing wavering in the movement. During the year, in spite of his opposition to the policies of Yasir Arafat, the PFLP-GC joined the PLO, with Jibril becoming a member of the central committee of the organization.

Bolstered by aid from Syria and Libya, the PFLPGC launched into a series of terrorist actions against Israel, which impaired the diplomatic initiative that had been undertaken by the PLO. In 1977, the pro-Syrian policy advocated by Jibril prompted Muhammad ʿAbbas Zaydan (Abu al-Abbas) to resign from the PFLP-GC, to found his own movement, which retook the name of the Palestine Liberation Front. In 1983, a new opposition surfaced in the PFLP-GC, giving birth to the PFLP-GC-Temporary Command. In 1984, expelled from the PLO, the PFLP-GC joined the Palestinian opposition, by adhering to the Palestinian National Salvation Front (PNSF). Certain opponents of Yasir Arafat began regarding Jibril as a possible successor to the head of the PLO. Between 1985 and 1989, the PFLP-GC planned and carried out many terrorist actions. In 1990, Jibril became closer to Iran, making efforts also to back an Islamic current that had surfaced in his movement, one which participated regularly in joint actions with Hizbullah.

In September 1993, opposing the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, signed in Washington, he made a death threat against Arafat, whom he accused of treason, and he decided to join the Palestinian opposition, the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF). As the Israeli-Palestinian peace process evolved, Jibril found himself becoming more irrelevant to Palestinian movements. Two currents surfaced in the PFLP-GC: the radical current, which he advocated, along with his son, Muhammad Jihad Jibril; and the moderate current, advocated by the assistant secretary general, Talal Naji, in favor of supporting the policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Muhammad Jihad Jibril was assassinated by car bomb in Beirut in May 2002.

SEE ALSO Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF); Arab-Israel War (1967); Arab National Movement; Arafat, Yasir; Fatah, al-; Habash, George; Hawatma, Nayif; Hizbullah; Palestinian Authority; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Zaydan, Muhammad ʿAbbas.