Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command
POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE–GENERAL COMMAND
Radical Palestinian group.
With between 500 and 1,000 members, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) is one of the smaller Palestinian guerrilla organizations. The PFLP-GC recruits mainly from the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and Syria. Its leadership, under Ahmad Jibril, served in the Syrian military before forming the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) in 1965. After briefly merging with al-Fatah, in 1967 they were founding members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), then broke away in October 1968. The PFLP-GC was admitted to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in late 1969 and acquired a seat on the PLO Executive Committee in June 1974. Based first in Amman and then in Beirut, its headquarters have been in Damascus since 1982. During the late 1960s another, unrelated PFLP splinter group, led by Ahmad Zaʿrur and eventually known as the Organization of Arab Palestine, also used the name PFLP-GC, but it was usually distinguished as PFLP-GC (B). During this period the original PFLP-GC was therefore often known as PFLP-GC (A) and occasionally operated as the al-Aqsa Fidaʾiyyun Front.
Nominally Marxist-Leninist, the PFLP-GC has been one of the most uncompromising of the Palestinian "rejectionist" groups. In October 1974 it was a founding member of the Front of Palestinian Forces Rejecting Surrenderist Solutions (the Rejection Front). In 1983 it was one of two PLO factions to rebel after Yasir Arafat hinted at making peace with Israel, and it has since boycotted all PLO institutions, supporting a series of rejectionist coalitions from Damascus.
The PFLP-GC is known for its indiscriminate military actions specializing in the use of small,
highly trained units for high-profile operations. It was responsible for a suicide raid on an apartment building in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona in April 1974 that killed eighteen Israeli civilians, and for the November 1987 hang-glider attack on an army camp in northeast Israel that killed six soldiers. It is presumed to be responsible for the February 1970 midair explosion of a Swiss airliner en route to Israel that killed more than forty-five people; the 1978 bombing of a Beirut building that killed more than two hundred PLO personnel; and a series of Syrian-backed attacks in Jordan and Europe, notably the bombing of a civilian airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988. Its military positions across Lebanon face regular Israeli attacks, and Jibril's son Jihad, responsible for operations in Lebanon, was killed in 2002 by a car bomb that was widely believed to have been planted by Israel.
The PFLP-GC's close links with Syria (as well as Libya and, more recently, Iran) have reduced its autonomy, undermining its credibility among Palestinians when its other loyalties placed the PFLP-GC in military conflict with the PLO. In 1977 a faction led by Muhammad Zaydan and Talʿat Yaʿqub split off to revive the PLF after Jibril justified Syrian military incursions into Palestinian camps in Lebanon. In 1984 Jibril was expelled from the PLO following Syria's 1983 confrontation with the PLO. A decade later, the PFLP-GC was implicated in attempts on Arafat's life. The PFLP-GC's presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is consequently small. Nevertheless, its 1985 prisoner exchange with Israel, enabling hundreds to return to the Palestinian territories, infused valuable (if primarily non–PFLP-GC) cadres into these territories. Its 1987 hang glider operation also perceptibly emboldened the Palestinian population on the eve of the Intifada, and from the 1990s, the PFLP-GC trained and smuggled arms to Islamist groups in the territories. Its Syrian-based radio station, Idhaʾat al-Quds (Radio Jerusalem), established in 1988 to encourage rebellion in the West Bank, was popular, and often jammed by Israel. It publishes Ila al-Amam (Forward), first issued in 1963, and al-Jabha (The front), which first appeared in 1969.
see also fatah, al-; jibril, ahmad; palestine liberation organization (plo); popular front for the liberation of palestine; rejection front.
Cobban, Helena. The Palestinian Liberation Organization: People, Power and Politics. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Gresh, Alain. The PLO—The Struggle Within: Towards an Independent Palestinian State, revised edition, translated by A. M. Berrett. London: Zed Books, 1988.
Quandt, William B., et al. The Politics of Palestinian Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.
Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2004.
updated by george r. wilkes
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Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1968, claiming it wanted to focus more on fighting and less on politics. Opposed to Arafat's Palestine Liberation Army (PLO), the PFLP-GC is led by Ahmad Jabril, a former captain in the Syrian Army. The PFLP-GC maintains close ties to both Syria and Iran.
The PFLP-GC carried out dozens of attacks in Europe and the Middle East during the 1970s-80s. Known for cross-border terrorist attacks into Israel using unusual means, such as hot-air balloons and motorized hang gliders, PFLP-GC's recent primary focus is on guerrilla operations in southern Lebanon, small-scale attacks in Israel, West Bank, and Gaza.
The PFLP-GC has an estimated several hundred adherents, and is headquartered in Damascus with bases in Lebanon. They receive support from Syria and financial support from Iran.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/> (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001. Annual Report: On the Record Briefing. May 21, 2002. <http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm> (April 17, 2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. <http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html> (April 16, 2003).
Terrorism, Philosophical and Ideological Origins
Terrorist and Para-State Organizations
Terrorist Organization List, United States
Terrorist Organizations, Freezing of Assets
"Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
"Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/popular-front-liberation-palestine-general-command-pflp-gc
"Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Retrieved February 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/popular-front-liberation-palestine-general-command-pflp-gc