- Palestine Liberation Front
The Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) (جبهة التحرير الفلسطينية) is a
Palestinianmilitant group which is designated as a terroristorganization by Canada, [ [http://www.psepc.gc.ca/prg/ns/le/cle-en.asp#plf31 Currently listed entities ] ] the European Union, [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00640066.pdf] and the United States. It is presently led by Abu Nidal al-Ashqar.
The PLF was originally founded by
Ahmed Jibrilin 1959, and enjoyed strong Syrian backing. In 1967the PLF merged with two other groups, 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 spilt 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
Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) in 1976, during the Lebanese Civil War. Open fighting between the rivaling factions ensued, and only after mediation by Yassir Arafatdid 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 an August 1977 bombing of the PLF headquarters, which killed some 200 people.
1982, following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the organization split into three factions. One of the main points of disagreement was the relation to the mainstream PLO and Fatah, with some members critically supporting Arafat, while others joined the rebellion against him. All three factions claimed to represent the original organization and kept the name PLF: [http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/plf-pr.cfm Terrorism - In the Spotlight: The Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) ] ]
# The faction headed by Tal'at Ya'akub, the general secretary of the PLF, remained neutral in the struggle between the various organizations and settled its forces in
Lebanon. Ya'akub died in November 1988 of a heart attack and his faction disintegrated. .
# A minor faction under PLF Central Committee member
Abd al-Fatah Ghanimwas more aggressively pro-Syrian and seized control of the movement's organization in Damascus. It supported Abu Musa's Fatah Uprisingorganization and coordinated with it in attacks on the PLO. Later, it moved operations to Libya, but eventually reconciled with the Ya'qub faction.
# A pro-
Iraqi faction under Abu Abbas, who had been Deputy General Secretary, had the largest membership, estimated at some 400 activists. The group was originally headquartered in Tunisia, but after a 1985 cruise ship hijacking ( Achille Lauro), Abu Abbas was expelled by Tunisian authorities, and the group's leadership relocated to Baghdad(see Prominent attacks).
While each faction kept the original name and claimed to represent the mother-organization, Abbas's faction has been responsible for the more prominent terrorist attacks carried out by the PLF and it was this faction that has been designated a foreign terrorist organization.
PLF in recent years
Until recently the leaders of the PLF 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 terrorismand 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 Bankand 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 terrorist training in
Iraq. The cell had been planning attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Ben Gurion airport. The cell had already been involved in other terrorist activities including the abduction and murder of Israeli teenager Yuri Gushstein.
2003US-led War on Iraq Abu Abbas was captured in April, 2003, by US forces. He died while in US custody in Iraq, reportedly of natural causes, on March 9, 2004. [http://library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/plf.htm]
The Achille Lauro attack
One notorious incident was the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship "
Achille Lauro" on October 7, 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.
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 USAFbase 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 bring its own charges against Abbas, although a criminal complaint filed against him in 1986 was dropped a short time later without an indictment. [ [http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/04/16/sprj.irq.us.abu.abbas/index.html CNN.com - U.S. mulls legal options after Abbas capture - Apr. 17, 2003 ] ]
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 Arafatto 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. [ [http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/terror_90/mideast.html 1990 Global Terrorism: Middle East Overview ] ]
The front took part in the 2006 Palestinian elections under the label Martyr Abu Abbas, but failed to win a seat.
The 1979 Nahariya attack
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