Khalaf, Salah (Abu Iyad; 1933–1991)

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KHALAF, SALAH (Abu Iyad; 1933–1991)

Palestinian, born 31 August 1933 in Jaffa. In 1948 Khalaf and his family took refuge in Gaza, where he joined a paramilitary youth group associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1952, when a student at the University of Cairo, he made the acquaintance of Yasir Arafat and Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) at the General Union of Palestinian Students, becoming Arafat's deputy and eventually president of the organization. After earning degrees in philosophy and psychology, as well as a teacher's diploma, he decided to devote himself to the Palestinian cause. He returned to Gaza in 1957 to teach, and in 1959 to Kuwait. In October of that year, he participated with Arafat, Wazir, Faruk Qaddumi, and Khalid al-Hasan in the creation of al-Fatah, within which he was responsible for the "mobilization of the masses." From 1960 to 1970 he traveled widely to various Arab countries in the Middle East, as well as to Germany, to sensitize young Palestinians and to win support from the leaders of these countries. At the end of 1967, he was named head of internal security, intelligence, and counterintelligence in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He was often charged with advocating al-Fatah's positions to the more radical members of the PLO, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP); he was also to some extent their advocate within al-Fatah, protecting them against the hostility of the more conservative members of the leadership.

Although Khalaf advocated peace with Jordanian authorities, they held him largely responsible for the events of Black September 1970, and that month arrested him and sentenced him to death. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser intervened personally to have him released. He is believed to have created in July 1971 in Lebanon, with Ali Hassan al-Salama, an operational group called Black September, whose object it was to avenge the death of the Palestinian freedom fighters (fidaʾiyyun) killed in Jordan the previous year. In November 1973, he was one of the first Palestinian leaders to advocate the two-state solution, with the establishment of a democratic, secular Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. In October 1974, he was arrested by Moroccan authorities as he prepared an assassination attempt against King Hussein of Jordan, expected shortly in Rabat for an Arab League summit. In July 1981, he was named head of the security departments of al-Fatah and the PLO. In carrying out these functions he was assisted by Khalil al-Wazir, Hayel Abdul Hamid, and Amin al-Hindi (Abu Zuhayr). In this capacity he met often with many leaders of Arab and Western special services; he is said to have supplied them with information about attacks planned by other Palestinian organizations, particularly that of Abu Nidal (Sabri al-Banna), the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

In 1982, when the PLO was forced to leave Lebanon, for the sake of unity in the Palestinian movement, and wanting to remain loyal to Yasir Arafat, he refused to make common cause with al-Fatah and PLO dissidents. Just prior to then he had been to Moscow, asking the mediation of the USSR in resolving the differences between Syria and the PLO. In 1988, when the first Intifada was intensifying in the occupied territories, Khalaf participated in coordinating activities in the West Bank. During the crisis leading to the Gulf War of 1991, Khalaf dissented from the PLO position of support for Iraq, and criticized Saddam Hussein. In the night of 14–15 January 1991, Khalaf and Hayel Abdul Hamid were assassinated in Tunis by a bodyguard who was an agent of the Abu Nidal group, possibly at the behest of Hussein. The death of Khalaf, who was very popular in the Palestinian community, was a heavy blow to the Palestinian central command, and especially to its leader, Arafat. A man of action, and also admired for his intellect, entrusted frequently with the most delicate missions, Khalaf was considered to be Arafat's second in command.

SEE ALSO Arafat, Yasir; Black September 1970; Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Fatah, al-; Fatah Revolutionary Council; Hindi, Amin al-; Hussein, Saddam; League of Arab States; Palestine Liberation Organization; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Wazir, Khalil al-; West Bank.

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