Wazir, Khalil Al- (Abu Jihad; 1935–)

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WAZIR, KHALIL AL- (Abu Jihad; 1935–)

Palestinian resistance figure, born in Ramla. At the time of the 1948 War, he was expelled with his family. They settled in the Burayj refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, where he attended a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. He is said to have joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1951. Around this time he is also said to have received military training either in Gaza or in Egypt. In 1954 he made the acquaintance of Yasir Arafat and also formed a commando unit in Gaza, which carried out sabotage against the Israelis, for which he was briefly imprisoned by the Egyptians. In 1955 he became secretary of the General Union of Palestinian Students in Gaza. In 1956 he enrolled at the University of Alexandria but did not complete his education. From 1959 to 1963 he worked as a teacher in Kuwait, where in December 1959 he participated with Arafat in the creation of Fatah. In 1962 he married Intisar al-Khalil, an ardent Fatah militant. In November 1963 he became head of the first Fatah diplomatic mission, in Algiers. The following year, he traveled to China, North Vietnam, and North Korea, establishing contacts, and took part in the meeting of the Palestine National Council at which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded.

When the Fatah Central Committee decided to begin military action against Israel, Wazir was appointed deputy commander of Fatah's military wing. In March 1965 he moved to Damascus, where he acted as the liaison between underground fighters in Israel and the PLO. In May 1966 he was arrested by Syrian authorities, who released him after thirty days. In 1968, following the Arab defeat in the 1967 War, he became deputy commander of the PLO military forces and was put in charge of Fatah (al-jihaz al-gharbi) operations launched against Israel from the occupied territories. In 1970 he participated in the Black September 1970 confrontations in Jordan, after which, like most of the fidaʾiyyun, he was banished to Lebanon. Between 1971 and 1982, during the Lebanese Civil War and inter-Palestinian conflicts, his activities at the head of Palestinian forces were crucial to Arafat's survival. In 1982 he followed the latter into exile in Yemen, and then to Tunisia.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon forced a change in Wazir's approach to fighting Israel; instead of direct military challenge from outside, he now favored popular resistance from within, and he organized local resistance committees in the Occupied Territories, which later were the institutional base for the first Intifada, which began in late 1987. According to his colleagues, Khalil al-Wazir had been planning to go to Baghdad in April 1988 to attend an intra-Palestinian meeting to coordinate the Intifada, but on the night of 14–15 April he was assassinated in his villa near Tunis by an Israeli commando. His death weakened Arafat's position in the PLO. A member of the central committee of Fatah, Khalil al-Wazir had been one of the principal military leaders of the Palestinian resistance and he was very close to Arafat. He was much admired in the Palestinian community, as well as being greatly respected by many Arab political figures. No hint of the corruption that was indulged in by other senior members of the PLO leadership ever clung to him.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1948); Arab-Israel War (1967); Arafat, Yasir Muhammad; Black September 1970; Fatah, al-; Gaza Strip; General Union of Palestinian Students; Intifada (1987–1993); Khalil, Intisar al-; Muslim Brotherhood; Palestine Liberation Organization; Palestine National Council; United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

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