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Palestinian Liberation Front

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Palestinian Liberation Front
جبهة التحرير الفلسطينية
LeaderWasel Abu Yousef
Founded1959 (1959)[1]
HeadquartersRamallah, Palestine
IdeologyArab nationalism
National affiliationPLO

The Palestinian Liberation Front (Arabic: جبهة التحرير الفلسطينية‎, PLF) is a Palestinian political faction. Since 1997, the PLF has been a designated terrorist organization by the United States.[2] The PLF has also been banned in Japan.[3]


The PLF was founded by Ahmed Jibril and Shafiq al-Hout in 1959, with strong Syrian backing. In 1964, the PLF as a whole was one of the eight constituent groups that had originally formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which was under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat. In 1967, the PLF merged with the Arab Nationalist Movement-affiliated Heroes of the Return (abtal al-awda) and the Young Avengers, to form the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The PFLP was led by former ANM-leader George Habash, but in April 1968 Jibril split from this group to form the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), which returned to the strongly pro-Syrian position of the former PLF.

This eventually led to a reestablishment of the PLF, as the organization broke apart after Jibril's PFLP-GC had followed Syria into battle against the PLO in 1976, during the Lebanese Civil War. Open fighting between the rival factions ensued, and only after mediation by Yassir Arafat did their relationship stabilize. On April 24, 1977, the PFLP-GC deserters formed the new PLF, under the leadership of Muhammad Zaidan (Abu Abbas) and Tal'at Ya'qub. Sporadic fighting continued between PFLP-GC and PLF, and included the bombing in August 1977 of the PLF headquarters, which killed 200 people.

Terrorist activities

Achille Lauro hijacking

One notorious incident was the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship MS Achille Lauro on 7 October 1985. The hijackers' original aim was to use the ship to slip into Israel. However, crew members discovered them cleaning weapons, and the group then seized control of the ship, murdering an elderly wheelchair-dependent Jewish New Yorker, Leon Klinghoffer.[4]

US fighter planes later forced down the Egyptian aircraft in which Abbas was escaping following a negotiated end of the hijacking, and forced it to land at a USAF base on Sigonella, Sicily. The Italians let Abbas go, but subsequently sentenced him to five life sentences in absentia. Abbas was expelled from Tunisia and established his headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.

The United States could have brought its own charges against Abbas, although a criminal complaint filed against him in 1986 was dropped a short time later without an indictment.[5]

1990 beach raid

In May 1990, the PLF launched an attack on Israel's Nizanim beach, near Tel Aviv, urged on by Iraq to torpedo the moves towards a negotiated solution between the PLO and Israel. The attackers had intended to kill tourists and Israeli civilians, but this was prevented. However, the action was significant, in that the failure of Yasser Arafat to condemn this attack led to the United States backing out of the American–Palestinian dialogue that had begun in 1988. Despite Arafat's official silence on the issue, the PLF suffered heavy internal criticism within the PLO, and Abu Abbas had to step down from his seat on the executive committee.[6]

PLF in recent years

PLF leaders were active in the PLO with Abu Abbas acting as PLF representative in the PLO's executive committee. During the years after the PLO signed the 1993 Oslo Accords, which the PLF opposes, Abu Abbas agreed to abandon terrorism and acknowledged Israel's right to exist. The movement maintained offices in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon and Iraq, but its activities dwindled. It has a low level of support in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and its main strength lies in the Lebanese refugee camps, where it is reported to have coordinated with Fatah against various Syrian-backed factions.

In November 2001, 15 members of a PLF cell were arrested by Israeli authorities. Some of those captured had received military training in Iraq. The cell had been planning attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ben Gurion airport. The cell had already been involved in other terrorist activities including the murder of Israeli civilian Yuri Gushstein.[7]

During the US-led Operation Iraqi Freedom, Abu Abbas was captured in April 2003 by US forces. He died on 9 March 2004 while in US custody in Iraq, reportedly of natural causes.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "Palestinian Liberation Front (Palestine)". www.crwflags.com.
  2. ^ "Foreign Terrorist Organizations". the U.S. State Department. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Implementation of the Measures including the Freezing of Assets against Terrorists and the Like (Archived copy)". Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  4. ^ Rubenberg, C.A. (2010) The Encyclopedia Of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lynne Rienner, Publishers.
  5. ^ "U.S. mulls legal options after Abbas capture". CNN.com. April 17, 2003.
  6. ^ "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1990 – Middle East Overview". Federation of American Scientists.
  7. ^ "Terrorism". cdi.org. Archived from the original on 2006-04-13.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-02-19. Retrieved 2006-01-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)