Palestine Liberation Front (1977)

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PALESTINE LIBERATION FRONT (1977)

Palestinian movement (Jabhat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniya) founded in April 1977. The Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) came out of a split in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP–GC), caused by the opposition of some of its members to Syrian influence in the organization. Iraqi in allegiance, the PLF was headed by its political leader, Muhammad Zaydan and a secretary general, Talʿat Yaʿqub, flanked by Said Yusuf and Ali Zaydan. On 14 May 1977 the leadership of the Rejection Front, which had united opponents to the Israeli-Arab peace negotiations, decided to exclude Ahmad Jibril's PFLP–GC from its organization, replacing it with the PLF.

Having been established in Lebanon since the end of the 1970s, both movements' partisans entered a period of bloody confrontations. In the night of 12–13 August 1978, an attack generally believed to have come from the PFLP–GC on the headquarters of the PLF in Beirut caused nearly two hundred deaths. In 1981, having succeeded in solidifying its base among Palestinians, the PLF was admitted to the Palestine National Council (PNC). Between 1982 and 1983, when Palestinian forces were evacuating Lebanon, two currents surfaced in the movement. The first, headed by Muhammad Zaydan, was comprised of partisans of Yasir Arafat; the second, under the leadership of Talʿat Yaʿqub, was made up of members who favored Syria. Yaʿqub, after having created his own group (the PLF–Talʿat Yaʿqub Faction), allied it with the Palestinian National Salvation Front (PNSF), which gathered together the Palestinian opposition. From November 1984, Zaydan, elected to the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), ardently supported the policies of Arafat.

A new tendency, represented by Abd al-Fattah Ghanim, until then a supporter of Talʿat Yaʿqub, surfaced in the PLF. In September 1985, in spite of internal divergences in the movement, Zaydan was elected secretary general of the PLF. On the following 8 October, in reprisal for an Israeli air raid on the headquarters of the PLO, near Tunis, a PLF group carried out the hijacking of an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, during which a Jewish-American citizen was killed. The United States put out an international arrest warrant against Zaydan and the members of the commando. On 22 April 1987, the presence of the head of the PLF in Algiers at a meeting of the Palestine National Council (PNC) led the United States to protest to the Algerian authorities. Between 1986 and 1988, the leaders of different currents existing in the PLF tried in vain to unite their groups under a common banner.

In November 1988, after the death of Yaʿqub, two new tendencies emerged in his movement: the first under the leadership of Abd al-Fattah Ghanim, pro-Libyan, the second, under Yusif al-Maqdah, pro-Syrian. On 15 November 1989, prodded by Arafat, the leaders of the different currents of the Front accepted the authority of Zaydan. On 30 May 1990, a PLF commando attempted a naval assault on Tel Aviv, which failed. Arafat's refusal to condemn this action publicly caused the United States to reverse its decision to start talks with the leadership of the PLO. That August, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the PLF came out in support of Baghdad. Hostile to the Israeli-Arab peace process, which had started in November 1991 with the Madrid Conference, the PLF leader, in spite of his supporting Arafat, declared his opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords, signed on 13 September 1993, in Washington, D.C. Several members of the PLF joined the Palestinian opposition in the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF), while Zaydan decided, finally, to continue backing Arafat. In 2004 the principal leaders of the PLF are: Muhammad Zaydan (Abu al-Abbas, secretary general), ʿAli Ishaq (Abu Dunia, assistant secretary general), Ali Zaydan, Zuhdi Sammur, Bilal Qassem Dalkamoni, Muhammad Mahmud Qassem, Imad Yassin, and Marwan Bakr.

SEE ALSO Alliance of Palestinian Forces; Arafat, Yasir; Jibril, Ahmad; Madrid Conference; Oslo Accords; Palestinian National Salvation Front; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command; Rejection Front; Zaydan, Muhammad ʿAbbas.

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