Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP–GC)

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POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE–GENERAL COMMAND (PFLP–GC)

Palestinian movement (Al-Jabha al-Shaʿbiya li-Tahrir Filastni–Al-Qiyada al-ʿAmma) created by Ahmad Jibril and Ahmad Zaʿrur in November 1968, after breaking with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claiming they wanted to concentrate on the struggle rather than politics. A radical, secular, socialist movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP–GC) advocated armed struggle and rejected any negotiated solution with Israel. It was backed by Syria, Libya, and Iran, who supplied them well with arms. Its headquarters was located in the suburbs of Damascus, while a section of its operational department was based in Lebanon. The PFLP–GC made itself known on 2 February 1970 when it destroyed a Swissair plane, killing 47 people, by placing a bomb aboard, which exploded in flight en route to Tel Aviv. From this date, the movement specialized in booby-trapped letters and suicide attacks. In April 1974 the PFLP–GC attacked a kibbutz at Kiryat Shimona, took hostages and attempted to trade them for 100 Palestinian prisoners. The operation failed and the guerrillas and 18 hostages were killed. In 1974, the PFLP-GC joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

In 1977, the pro-Syrian policies favored by Jibril prompted Muhammad Zaydan to quit the PFLP–GC, to create the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF). Between 1978 and 1981, the PFLP–GC launched a campaign of armed actions against Israeli interests as well as Lebanese militia and other Palestinian splinter groups. During the 1980s, it participated in a number of attacks in liaison with the Irish Republican Army, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), and Action Directe (a French terrorist organization). In 1982, when the PLO was expelled from Lebanon after the Israeli invasion, the PFLP–GC moved its headquarters to Damascus. In 1983, the PFLP–GC participated in a revolt against Yasir Arafat promoted by the Syrian regime; the resulting dissidence in the movement gave rise to the PFLP–GC–Temporary Command. In the following year, the PFLP–GC joined the Palestinian oppositional front, the Palestinian National Salvation Front (PNSF). A split in that movement, caused by Muhammad Shatta (Abu Jabir) and backed by al-Fatah, gave rise to the PFLP–GC–Special Command. This new organization had its headquarters in Cyprus. In 1984 Jibril and the PFLP–GC was expelled from the PLO for its definitively pro-Syrian attitude. In April 1985, through the intermediary of the International Red Cross and the former chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kreisky, the PFLP–GC negotiated an exchange of three Israeli soldiers, whom they had captured in Lebanon in September 1982, for 1,187 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

In 1987 the movement effected a rapprochement with Iran, after which it retreated somewhat from its strictly secular orientation. In November of that year it staged a raid from South Lebanon into Israel by hang glider and killed six Israeli soldiers; this incident gave heart to many Palestinians and is said to have helped spark the first Intifada. In 1988 it established a radio station in Syria, Radio Jerusalem (Idhaʾt al-Quds), to broadcast into the occupied territories and encourage the resistance during the Intifada. Opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords of 1993, the PFLP–GC joined the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF), and Ahmad Jibril made a death threat against Yasir Arafat, whom he accused of betraying the Palestinian cause. In 1994, an Islamic current, under the impetus of Mustafa Khamis, appeared in the movement, giving rise to a PFLP–Islamic GC. There was supposition that this new branch was created with Jibril's agreement to facilitate contacts of the PFLP–GC with Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Thereafter, in the context of their opposition to the Oslo peace process, joint operations were mounted by the three movements. In December 1996, Khamis announced the creation of a new dissident party from the PFLP–GC, the Arab Union Party, which favored the policies of Arafat and was based in Jordan. Two trends exist within the movement: a radical wing, led by Jibril and, until his assassination by car bomb in 2002, his son Jihad, and a moderate wing, headed by the assistant secretary general of the movement, Talal Naji (Abu Jihad Talal). Weakened by financial crisis due to a reduction in external subsidies, as well as by personality conflicts and political dissension, the PFLP–GC has lost support in the occupied territories and has been largely inactive since the early 1990s.


SEE ALSO Alliance of Palestinian Forces; Arab Union Party; Fatah, al-; Intifada (1987–1993); Jibril, Ahmad; Palestine Liberation Front (1977); Palestine Liberation Organization; Palestinian National Salvation Front; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Zaydan, Muhammad.