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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Israel kills key Palestinian leader
A crowd gathers outside a window damaged by an Israeli missile attack on the PFLP leader Ali Abu Mustafa
Israel fired missiles at the room where he was working
The leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has been killed in an Israeli attack.

Palestinian sources say Abu Ali Mustafa died when at least two missiles struck his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah, not far from the offices of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

After this crime, every Israeli citizen and every Israeli leader must feel he is a target

PFLP leader Rabah Muhana
Israeli military forces confirmed that they had carried out the attack, saying the missiles were fired by a helicopter gunship.

Mustafa is the highest-ranking Palestinian official to be assassinated by the Israelis since the start of the 11-month Palestinian uprising.

The Palestinian Authority has declared three days of national mourning for Abu Ali Mustafa, while vows of revenge came from the PFLP's Damascus headquarters and from the militant Islamic group Hamas, which called the attack a declaration of war.

Rabah Muhana, a political leader of the PFLP, told Reuters news agency: "We will seek to target and harm Israeli criminal leaders to respond to the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa and to block further Israeli attacks on Palestinian leaders.

Ali Abu Mustafa
Mustafa took over the PFLP last year
"After this crime, every Israeli citizen and every Israeli leader must feel he is a target...The assassination of a Palestinian leader, an Arab leader, will not pass without punishment."

Protests at the killling erupted across the West Bank and in the Palestinian refugee camps of southern Lebanon.

A US State Department official, referring to past American criticism of what it calls "targeted killings" by Israel, said: "Our views on such attacks are well-known."

Mustafa - whose real name was Mustafa al-Zibri - was in his early 60s and had been Secretary General of the PFLP since founding leader George Habash stepped down in April 2000.

Rejectionist faction

The PFLP, a Marxist faction of Mr Arafat's PLO, has traditionally opposed any peace negotiations with Israel and enjoys the support of about 15% of Palestinians.

But after the retirement of Mr Habash, Mustafa worked towards reconciliation between the PFLP and Mr Arafat.

Funeral of soldier Gil Oz, killed when Palestinians attacked his army base
Both sides buried dead at the weekend
At the same time, he continued to reject the Oslo framework as a basis for talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Israeli attack came after a weekend of violence in the region that left 11 people dead.

On Sunday, Israeli helicopters destroyed a Palestinian police station in the West Bank, while tanks shelled several police checkpoints.

The raids followed the death of an Israeli motorist who was shot as he stopped at a Palestinian shop in the West Bank.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed on Saturday when two Palestinians carried out a raid on a military base.

The two Palestinians were themselves killed by other soldiers.


Israel carried out a number of fighter jet and tank demolitions of Palestinian buildings in response.

Egypt and Jordan - the only two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel - called on the United States to do more to curb the violence.

Funeral of Palestinian policeman Allah Abu Bakra, 28, killed in an Israeli incursion into Rafah
Tempers ran high after the violence
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Washington's failure to intervene was "dangerous for the region, for our interests and even for the Israeli people".

Abu Ali Mustafa returned to the West Bank in 1999 after more than 30 years in Damascus.

The Israeli army said in a statement that "contrary to his promises, he continued with terrorist activities and was responsible for dozens of attacks on Israel".

Israel has a policy of killing Palestinians it believes have carried out attacks on Israel, which is calls "active defence" or "targeted killings".

Palestinians condemn the killings as assassinations and say more than 60 people have been killed in such attacks.

The policy has also attracted widespread international criticism.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jerusalem
"Tonight the retaliation has started"
Rabah Mohana, Pop. Front for the Lib. of Palestine
"Everyday we are facing harassment from the Israeli army"
Ra'anan Gissin, Israeli government spokesman
"This was a matter of self-defence"
See also:

27 Aug 01 | Middle East
Abu Ali Mustafa: 'Right to struggle'
08 Jul 00 | Middle East
Palestinian hardliners elect new head
28 Apr 00 | Middle East
Palestinian leader resigns
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