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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Ahmed Jibril and the PFLP-GC
Abu Maher al-Yamani of the PFLP, Ahmed Jibril of the PFLP-GC and Abu Mousa of Fatah Uprising
Jibril (centre): the older generation of Palestinian radical

Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command belongs to a bygone era of Palestinian struggle against Israel.

It has remained an organisation of the Palestinian diaspora while the real power moved back to the West Bank and Gaza long ago.

And it remains wedded to a doctrine of total rejection of any peace with Israel for ever - a position with few adherents even in the current climate of conflict.

Founded by Ahmed Jibril in 1968
Favours armed struggle against Israel
Rejects peaceful settlement
Main sponsors: Syria, Iran
Linked to Libya during the 1980s
Founded by Mr Jibril in 1968, the group argued that fighting, not politics, was the key to reversing the establishment of Israel on Arab land, believing that conflict between Palestinians and the Israeli army would mobilise the whole Arab world to crush the "Zionist enemy".

The group staged dramatic and ingenious operations, such as the November 1987 suicide mission when two fighters crossed from Lebanon into Israel on motorised hang-gliders and killed six Israeli soldiers before being shot down.

A decade earlier, it had launched the first-ever Palestinian suicide operation - when three men blew themselves up with Israeli hostages near Kiryat Shmona leaving 18 people dead.

In its heyday, the PFLP-GC was also a skilled exponent of the internecine rivalry that often took the place of the liberation struggle as the major occupation of those involved in the Palestinian revolution.

Roots in schism

Ahmed Jibril was born in the Palestinian city of Jaffa, now in Israel, in 1928, but his family moved to Syria and he became an officer in the Syrian army.

Ahmed Jibril
Ahmed Jibril rejected any peace with Israel - ever
He set up the small Palestinian Liberation Front in 1959, joining forces in 1967 with fellow radical George Habash to found the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

His breakaway PFLP-GC was founded after tensions arose between Syria and Mr Habash. Mr Jibril has remained consistently pro-Syrian ever since, and Syria and its client Lebanon is where his group mainly operates.

The pro-Syrian orientation caused splits with other Palestinian organisations, such as the pro-Iraqi Fatah Revolutionary Council (the Abu Nidal group) in 1978, and the umbrella PLO in the mid-1980s, when Yasser Arafat broke with Damascus.

Mr Jibril's "revolutionary nihilism" - as one rival leader put it - apparently also led him into the arms of revolutionary inclined states such as Libya and Iran.

Analysts say there were also PFLP-GC terrorist cells in numerous European cities, which conducted international anti-American and anti-Israeli operations for on behalf of Syria, Libya and Iran.

Lockerbie link?

It was in this context that the PFLP-GC's name came up in the Lockerbie trial - in which a Libyan agent was eventually convicted by a Scottish court for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1989.

Jihad Jibril
Son and heir apparent Jihad: killed 20 May 2002
The court rejected the defence argument that Ahmed Jibril had carried out the bombing on behalf of Iran and Syria to avenge the July 1988 downing of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in the Gulf.

Syria and the PFLP-GC were initially blamed for Lockerbie, but that changed after Syria joined the alliance to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, and shortly thereafter Damascus became a key player in the US-sponsored Arab-Israeli peace process.

Far from bringing it back into the fold, the current violent uprising against Israeli occupation has seen the PFLP-GC rejectionists remain on the margins, occasionally launching attacks on Israeli targets from Lebanese territory.

The death of Mr Jibril's son Jihad Ahmed Jibril - who headed the PFLP-GC military wing - in a Beirut car bomb probably robs the organisation of a future leader.

There was speculation that any one of Israel, the Lebanese Christian right or Palestinian rival factions could have been behind the killing - but as one seasoned observer said, both father and son have a lot of enemies.

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See also:

04 May 00 | In Depth
20 May 02 | Middle East
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