Terrorism Profiles

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

Alternative Names:

Halhul Gang, Halhul Squad, Palestinian Popular Resistance Forces, PPRF, Red Eagle Gang, Red Eagle Group, Red Eagles, Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, Al-Jibha al-Sha’biya lil-Tahrir Filistin

Location:

Israel, Gaza Strip and West Bank

Leadership:

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is currently headed by founder and former leader of the PFLP-General Command, Ahmed Jibril.

Former leaders have included George Habash, Abu Ali Mustafa and Ahmed Sadat.

Membership:

Unknown

Funding Sources:

The group is believed to receive funding from sources such as Libya and Syria. In addition, the group receives funding from local sympathizers. In the past, the group’s Marxist ideology drew support from the Soviet Union and China.

Origins:

The PFLP is an organization formed in 1967. Its objective is the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a communist government in Palestine. The group developed following the overwhelming defeat of the Arab states in the Six Day War.

In 1968, the PFLP joined with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the main umbrella for the Palestinian nationalist movement. At the time, both the PLO and the PFLP were committed to an armed struggle for the creation of the Palestinian State. PFLP took part in several bold terrorist attacks, including hijacking civilian airliners, and storming OPEC headquarters in Vienna.

At one time, the PFLP was the second-largest faction under the PLO umbrella. Due to its Marxist ideological roots, the group also received support from the Soviet Union and China. The decline and collapse of the Soviet Union during the late 1980s undermined the PFLP’s capabilities, and the group lost ground to Islamist movements in the region, particularly Hamas.

The PFLP continually fought against peace talks between the PLO and Israel, and has on more than one occasion directly opposed accords signed by the PLO. The PFLP has also withdrawn itself from the organization in order to reject peace accords, before rejoining again in 1981.

In 2000, the group had accepted “new realities” in relation to the “one-state solution,” and it appeared the group had begun an ideological shift. However, this change was undone under the leadership of Sadat who stated the group had returned to its ‘one-state solution’ principles.

Major Attacks:

July 22, 1968: the PFLP hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.

September 1970: the PFLP hijacked three passenger planes and took them to airfields in Jordan, where the PLO was then based; after the planes were emptied, the hijackers blew them up. In response, King Hussein of Jordan decided that Palestinian radicals had gone too far and drove the PLO out of his kingdom.

May 30, 1972: PFLP and Japanese Red Army gunmen murdered two dozen passengers at Israel’s international airport in Lod.

July 4, 1976: breaking a PLO agreement to end terrorism outside Israeli-held territory, PFLP members joined with West German radical leftists from the Baader-Meinhof Gang to hijack an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv and landed the plane in Entebbe, Uganda. In a now-famous raid, Israeli commandos stormed the plane on the Entebbe tarmac and freed the hostages.

October 17, 2001: PFLP gunmen shot dead Rehavam Ze’evi, Israel’s right-winged tourism minister, in a Jerusalem hotel—the first assassination of an Israeli minister.

April 2002: Israeli officials foiled a PFLP attempt to blow up a Tel Aviv skyscraper with a car bomb (this could have caused massive casualties and would have marked a dramatic escalation in Palestinian terrorism.)

December 25, 2003: suicide bomb attack (4 people killed, more than 20 wounded.)

Ideological Roots:

The PFLP is a Marxist, nationalist and secular organization. The group combines Arab nationalism with Marxist-Leninist ideology, which views the destruction of Israel as integral to the struggle to remove Western capitalism from the Middle East.

Objectives:

The group is committed to the establishment of a Communist Palestinian state and to establish Jerusalem as its capital.

In more recent years, the group has called for withdrawal of Israeli soldiers to the 1967 borders, the dismantling of settlements in occupied territories and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Tactics:

In its early years, the PFLP favoured large scale and bold terror attacks like hijacking civilian airliners. However, more recently the group has been involved with firing rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip at communities in southern Israel. In addition, it has used suicide bombings to target Israeli forces patrolling the Gaza frontier.

Updated on January 21, 2016. 

References


  1. "PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC, Palestinian Leftists." Council on Foreign Relations. Last Modified October 31, 2005. Accessed January 20, 2016. http://www.cfr.org/israel/pflp-dflp-pflp-gc-palestinian-leftists/p9128
  2. “Currently Listed Entities.” Public Safety Canada. Last modified November 20, 2014. Accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#2040
  3. "Profile: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)." BBC Middle East. Last Modified November 18, 2014. Accessed January 20, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30099510
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