PFLP Had Promised To
Avenge IDF Killing Of Its Leader

JERUSALEM (AFP) - The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which claimed the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi on Wednesday morning, is a small, left-wing group that had promised to avenge the recent killing of its own leader.
The gunning down of the hardline Zeevi in a Jerusalem hotel took place several days after mourning ended for the late PFLP leader, Abu Ali Mustapha, killed in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack on August 27.
The PFLP had sworn that the "hunt-and-kill" assassination of Mustapha in the West Bank town of Ramallah would not go unpunished.
Mustapha returned to the occupied territories in 1999 after spending 18 years in exile in Syria, where the PFLP is based, and was elected in July of last year to replace the group's former leader and founder, George Habash.
The PFLP claim of responsibility made a direct link between the two killings.
"The Brigades of the Martyr Abu Ali Mustapha declare to have attacked the Zionist terrorist ... Rehavam Zeevi to avenge" the death of Mustafa, it said in a statement sent to AFP.
"The terrorist Sharon and his criminal band must know that Palestinian blood is so precious, and the wave of attacks against Palestinian officials and militants will not go unpunished," it said.
Analysts had seen signs the PFLP would become increasingly militant after Mustafa's death, especially the appointment of a known radical, 48-year-old Ahmad Sadat, as his successor earlier this month.
Many also saw Sadat's selection as a way to capitalize on the growing popularity of hardline groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad among ordinary Palestinians since the start of the intifada, or uprising, last September.
The PFLP was founded in 1967 by Habash, a Palestinian Christian, amid a wave of Arab nationalism fostered by former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, and who gave the group its original Marxist orientation.
Right from its conception, the PFLP considered Israel an enemy to be attacked anywhere in the world and quickly made good on its threats.
Just a year after it was formed it hijacked an Israeli El-Al flight to Algeria in July of 1968 in the name of the Palestinian cause.
And in September 1970, its members carried out a spectacular series of five straight hijackings, three from Zarka in Jordan, one from London and another from Cairo.
Those hijackings came amid the vicious fighting in 1970 between Palestinians and the Jordanian army, which resulted in the elimination the next year of the Palestinian military presence in that country.
The PFLP then started to stage attacks inside Israeli territory itself.
On May 30, 1972, three Japanese Red Army members acting in the PFLP's name opened fire into a crowd at the Lod airport serving Tel Aviv, killing 28 people and wounding another 78.
And in 1984 the group claimed responsibility for hijacking an Israeli passenger bus from Ashkelon to Tel Aviv. By the time it was all over, one of the passengers and four PFLP members were dead.
The PFLP joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1971 and became its radical Marxist wing.
For seven years it led the Rejection Front of hardline Palestinian groups, which rejected any compromise with Israel and repudiated the leadership of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Like the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is also based in Damascus, the group is still hostile to all Middle East peace efforts, including the 1993 Oslo accords in which Israel and the Palestinian were to reach a "final status" agreement.
However, in July 1999 Arafat's Fatah movement and the PFLP decided to reactivate the PLO to reconcile those those in favor and those against the Oslo peace process.
The PFLP, Fatah and the DFLP make up the three main parts of the PLO.

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