Founded on 11 December 1967, the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine is a progressive vanguard organization of the Palestinian working
class. The group is guided by Marxism-Leninism and, together with other
left-wing Palestinian organizations is struggling to build a working-class
Led by George
Habash, the group was originally backed by Egyptian President Gamal Abdul
Nasser. Habash viewed the "liberation" of Palestine as an integral part of the
world Communist revolution. The PFLP hijacked Israeli aircraft in 1968. It
abducted and threatened four American journalists in Beirut in 1981 (two from
the New York Times, one from the Washington Post and one from
Newsweek). PFLP members have continued to perpetrate terrorist acts
through the years.
Today, the PFLP "aims to mobilize and lead the struggle of the
Palestinian masses for the return to Palestine, self-determination, and the
establishment of a Palestinian state. These, in turn, are steps along the path
of defeating the Zionist entity, liberating all of Palestine, and establishing a
democratic Palestinian state where all citizens enjoy equal rights, free from
discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religious belief. Beyond this, the
PFLP aims at the establishment of a democratic socialist society."
At the beginning of October 2001, Ahmad Sa'adat replaced Abu
Ali Mustafa as the head of the PFLP. Mustafa, also known as Mustafa Zibri, was
assassinated by Israel August. 27, 2001. Sa'adat was born in 1953 in the West
Bank town of Al-Bireh, where he still resides. He joined the PFLP in 1969 and
has been arrested a number of times by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Since 1993, he has been
wanted by Israel for his role in terrorism.
Habash retired in 2000 after 32 years as head of the PFLP.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) is
Marxist-Leninist group founded in 1967 by George Habash. The PFLP sees itself as
"a progressive vanguard organisation of the Palestinian working class" and its
stated aim as "liberating all of Palestine and establishing a democratic
socialist Palestinian state."
The PFLP was one of the original members of the PLO, but suspended its
participation in 1993, when Yasser Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles
with Israel. Upon its withdrawal from the PLO, the PFLP joined the Alliance of
Palestinian Forces (APF) to oppose the Oslo peace process. However, in 1996, the
organization split from the APF, along with the DFLP, over ideological
In 1999, the PLFP took part in meetings with Arafat’s Fatah party and PLO
representatives to discuss national unity and the reinvigoration of the PLO. The
organization has drawn closer to the more violent elements of Fatah in the
months since Arafat returned to armed confrontation with Israel.
The PFLP was founded by George Habash in December 1967, in the wake of
the Six-Day War. Throughout most of its existence, the organization combined
Marxist ideology with Palestinian nationalism, and was among the first of the
Palestinian organization to use terrorism as a means to win attention to its
cause. The PFLP saw the elimination of Israel as a means towards the ultimate
goal of ridding the Middle East of dictators who kow-towed to Western
The organization carried out a long list of terrorist attacks in the
international arena, particularly hijackings against aviation targets. The
majority of these attacks were carried out under the direction of George
Habash’s associate Dr. Wadi’ Haddad, better known to Palestinians as “The
Master.” In November 1968 the PFLP carried out the first of many spectacular
plane hijackings, diverting an El Al plane enroute from Rome to Tel Aviv and
forcing it to land in Algeria. A month later the PFLP attacked an Israeli
aircraft at Athens airport. The Israelis refused to accede to the demand to
release Palestinian terrorists in their prisons and retaliated by attacking
Beirut airport and destroying thirteen parked aircraft.
The most outstanding terrorist attack from this period was the concurrent
hijacking of four western passenger airliners to Jordan. On 6 September 1970 the
PFLP, acting on the instructions of Wadi’ Haddad simultaneously hijacked a
Swissair DC-8 and a TWA Boeing 707. Six days later, this was followed by the
hijacking of a BOAC VC-10. The aircraft were forced to land at Dawson Field, 30
miles from Amman, which the hijackers renamed “Revolutionary Airport.” Meanwhile
another PFLP hijack team attempted to hijack an El Al plane, but was foiled by
the pilot, who put the plane into a steep dive, and the quick action of a sky
marshal and some of the passengers who overwhelmed the hijackers. Instead, the
PFLP managed to hijack a Pan American Boeing 747, which was flown to Cairo. All
of the planes were blown up on the ground after the passengers were evacuated.
This incident led to the events of “Black September,” in which the
Palestinian organizations were expelled from Jordan by the forces of King
Hussein. After years of violent clashes between members of the various
Palestinian guerrilla groups and the Jordanian army and security forces, Hussein
finally declared war on the PLO, imposing martial law. Three thousand people
lost their lives in the fighting that ensued between Jordanian forces and PLO
supporters. Finally, in a peace agreement brokered by the Arab League and by
Egyptian President Nasser, the PLO agreed to move its headquarters from Jordan
With the decline of the Soviet economy and the eventual collapse of the
Soviet Union, the PFLP found itself pushed to the periphery of the Palestinian
armed struggle. The group was superceded in the Palestinian Autonomous
territories by the Islamist groups, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Attempting to regain the initiative after the signing of the Declaration of
Principles in 1993, the PFLP joined forces with a 10-member rejection front,
based in Damascus. It forbade members to participate in the Palestinian
elections in 1996. However, three years later, Abu Ali Mustafa, the designated
successor of George Habash, traveled to Cairo to negotiate better terms with
George Habash resigned from the leadership of the PFLP in May 2000. His
protege, Mustafa Ali Kasam Zabiri, also known as Abu Ali Mustafa, was chosen as
general secretary of the organization, and formerly took up office in July of
that year. Mustafa also served as a member of the Political Bureau and the
Central Committee of the organization, as well as the Central Council of the PLO
and the Palestinian National Council.
Born Mustafa Zibri in the West Bank town of Arabeh, near Jenin, Mustafa was a
veteran of the PLO and had been politically active since the 60’s. He became a
member of the “Commune Alarab” movement in 1966, and in 1969 was appointed
military representative in the PFLP in Jordan. Following the events of “Black
September,” he transferred his activities to Lebanon. In 1972, Abu Ali Mustafa
was linked to the hijacking of a Lufthansa plane, and headed the negotiations on
behalf of the terrorists. In 1987 Mustafa became a member of the Executive
Council of the PLO, and in 1996, he took charge of PFLP internal operations.
Even within his own organization, he was regarded as something of an
extremist, and was known as Pro-Syrian. From the outset, he opposed the Oslo
agreements and supported the continuation of the military struggle to eradicate
Israel. In a 1996 interview with the Palestinian paper Al-Kuds, Mustafa
stated that he would not evconsider integrating his organization into the
Palestinian Authority, due to the difference in opinions between the two bodies.
In an interview with the Qatari satellite television station Al-Jazeera shortly
before he became leader of the PFLP, Mustafa stressed his movement’s commitment
to the struggle against Israel, regardless of peace efforts. “We believe the
conflict and the struggle against Israel is a strategic [principle] that is not
subordinated to any consideration,” he said.
In the September 1999, Abu Ali Mustafa, received permission to enter the
Palestinian autonomous areas. At that time, he transferred the headquarters of
the PFLP from Damascus to the Palestinian autonomous city of Ramallah. With the
outbreak of the current conflict, Mustafa reaffirmed his support for the “armed
struggle,” and ordered his organization to begin executing extensive terrorist
operations, part of which took place within Israeli territory.
On 27 August 2001, Abu Ali Mustafa was killed in an initiated attack by the
Israeli army, which fired three missiles from a helicopter into Mustafa’s
Abu Ali Mustafa was succeeded as leader of the PFLP by Ahmed Sadat, who was
appointed General Secretary on 3 October 2001. Sadat’s appointment to lead the
group as seen as further radicalization of the PFLP.
Sadat, a leader of the extreme faction of the PFLP in the territories,
supports the continuation of the armed struggle and staunchly opposes the Oslo
Accords. He sees himself loyal to the “original” principles of the PFLP—those of
George Habash—and since the outbreak of the current violence, has, together with
along with Ahad Olma, directed the majority of the organization’s terrorist
attacks. His position as Secretary General has lead to an increase in the PFLP’s
involvement in terrorist activity, and the marginalization of the “pragmatic”
faction of the organization, that had attempted to negotiate with the
In 1973 the PFLP accepted a decision of the Palestinian National Council to
cease terrorist activities abroad. This decision created a split between the
leadership of the PFLP and the Hadad Faction, which continued to carry out
terrorist attacks in the international arena. In May 1972 the PFLP, using
members of the Japanese Red Army, carried out an attack on Lod airport in Israel
which left twenty-four dead. On 9 July, the Israelis hit back by assassinating
PFLP spokesman Ghassan Kanafani in Beirut.
George Habash, meanwhile, complied with the decision of the Palestinian
National Council and acted to prevent his group from carrying out attacks in the
international arena. Instead, the PFLP concentrated its activities in the local
arena, carrying out attacks in Israel, Jordan and later in Lebanon. In the
subsequent years, the organization carried out a great number of terrorist
attacks against Israeli targets, along with guerilla attacks against IDF and SLA
targets in Lebanon.
With the outbreak of the first Intifada, in 1987, the PFLP began organizing
limited operations from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
At the beginning of the current confrontations in the disputed territories,
the PFLP participated in violent activities and carried out a number of terror
attacks including nine car bombs (in Jerusalem, Or Yehuda, Yehud, and Haifa),
small-scale bombings, and shootings in the West Bank that killed two Israeli
Some of the PFLP’s most recent terrorist attacks in Israel:
8 February 2001: Car-bombing on the Beit Israel road in Jerusalem. Five
civilians were lightly wounded.
21 March 2001: A car bomb was discovered and neutralized in the Mea Shearim
neighborhood in Jerusalem. There were no casualties.
23 April 2001: Car-bombing in OrYehuda. Four civilians were lightly wounded.
27 May 2001: Car-bombing in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. There were no
1 June 2001: Bombing in Mevasseret Zion. There were no casualties.
18 June 2001: A motorcycle-bomb was discovered in Haifa. There were no
2 July 2001: Two car bombs exploded in Yehud. Eleven civilians were wounded.
The cars, belonging to Israelis, had been broken into the previous night and
bombs,were rigged to be detonated by cellular phones planted in the trunks.
27 July 2001: Bomb planted in a municiple bus at the Malcha shopping mall
was discovered during a security check in Jerusalem.
22 August 2001: Car-bombing in Jerusalem. There were no casualties.
3 September 2001: A car bomb and three remote-control bombs exploded in
Jerusalem. Nine civilians were injured.
The Red Eagles
T the Red Eagle Group
T he Red Eagle Gang
The Halhul Gang
The Halhul Squad
Marxist-Leninist group founded in 1967 by George Habash as a member of the PLO.
Joined the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF) to oppose the Declaration of
Principles signed in 1993 and suspended participation in the PLO. Broke away
from the APF, along with the DFLP, in 1996 over ideological differences. Took
part in meetings with Arafat's Fatah party and PLO representatives in 1999 to
discuss national unity and the reinvigoration of the PLO but continues to oppose
current negotiations with Israel.
Committed numerous international terrorist attacks during the 1970s. Since 1978
has conducted attacks against Israeli or moderate Arab targets, including
killing a settler and her son in December 1996.
Location/Area of Operation
Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and the occupied territories.
Receives safehaven and some logistic assistance from Syria.