Military


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

In March 2014 Al-Jazeera broadcast the final episode in a three-year investigation of the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people. For years this was considered to be Gaddafi’s greatest crime but the documentary proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of carrying out the bombing, was innocent. Al-Jazeera concluded that Iran, acting through the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, ordered the blowing up of Pan Am 103 in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane by the US navy carrier in 1988.

Description

Leftist Palestinian nationalist group that formed after the Six Day War of 1967 and pioneered terrorist strategies in the early 1970s. Once a key players in Palestinian politics, lost influence in the 1990s after Yasir Arafat established the Palestinian Authority, an autonomous government that rules much of the West Bank and most of the Gaza Strip. Since the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) began in September 2000, however, PFLP-GC has tried to reassert itself by perpetrating terrorist attacks against Israel.

In 1968, one of the PFLP's earliest leaders, Ahmed Jibril, broke away to form the PFLP-GC. The new group initially declared that its focus would be military, not political. PFLP-GC was the most marginal and the most opposed to any negotiated settlement with Israel. It has joined a series of anti-Arafat rebellions. The PFLP-GC had long been a secular Marxist-Leninist organization, but in the late 1980s, after accepting assistance from Iran, the group began to use religious rhetoric.

In May 2001, Israeli forces intercepted a shipment of Katyusha rockets and anti-aircraft missiles being sent by the PFLP-GC to the Gaza Strip; PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril called it one of many such shipments.

Activities

The PFLP-GC has been less active than the other two groups but sometimes quite innovative. The group claims that a 1974 PFLP-GC suicide bombing was the first such attack by a Palestinian. In 1982, the PFLP-GC swapped three kidnapped Israeli reservists for more than 1,100 Arab captives held by Israel. Its attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon have occasionally involved unconventional vehicles; a November 1987 hang glider attack that killed six Israeli soldiers helped spark the first intifada.

The PFLP-GC has also launched international attacks. It bombed a Swiss airliner in flight in 1970 (killing all 47 passengers and crew members), and its members have reportedly cooperated with Iran, Libya, and radical leftist terrorist groups in Europe and Japan.

Carried out dozens of attacks in Europe and the Middle East during 1970s-80s. Known for cross-border terrorist attacks into Israel using unusual means, such as hot-air balloons and motorized hang gliders. Primary focus now on guerrilla operations in southern Lebanon, small-scale attacks in Israel, West Bank, and Gaza.

Leaders

Ahmed Jibril, an engineer and former Syrian army officer, remains the PFLP-GC's leader. He is now based in Damascus, Syria. The PFLP-GC has not reconciled with Arafat. In the mid-1990s, Jibril reportedly threatened to assassinate Arafat for pursuing a political settlement with Israel.

Strength

Location/Area of Operation

West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel and southern Lebanon

External Aid

Syria has provided financial support, training, and safe haven to all three groups. The PFLP-GC maintains headquarters in Damascus and also receives support from Iran. Libya has also helped the PFLP.Closely tied to both Syria and Iran.




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