George Habash - Black September

Black September

The PFLP ignored tensions with the mainstream leadership of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, and instead focused on bringing about revolutionary change in Jordan. Habash expressed the opinion that what proceeded was not "only military but also psychological warfare" and one had to "hold the Israelis under permanent pressure".

In 1970, Habash masterminded the hijackings of four Western airliners over the United States, Europe, the Far East and the Persian Gulf. The aircraft were blown up, after the passengers and crews were forced to disembark. Habash was also behind the hijacking of an Air France airliner to Entebbe, Uganda and an attack on Israel's Lod airport in which 27 people were shot to death. Forty-seven people were killed in the bombing of a Swissair jet in 1970.

The Dawson's Field hijackings of 1970 were instrumental in provoking the Black September crackdown, which came close to destroying the PLO. The hijackings led King Hussein of Jordan to carry out a major offensive against militant strongholds in his kingdom resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. In autumn 1970, Habash visited Beijing. After Black September, the PLO fedayeen relocated to Lebanon.

In 1972, Habash experienced failing health, and gradually began to lose influence within the organization. The Palestinian National Council's (PNC) adoption of a resolution viewed by the PFLP as a two-state solution in 1974, prompted Habash to lead his organization out of active participation in the PLO and to join the Iraqi-backed Rejectionist Front. Only in 1977 would the PFLP opt to rejoin, as the Palestinian factions rallied their forces in opposition to Anwar Sadat's overtures towards Israel, pro-U.S. policies and fragmentation of the Arab world. During the Lebanese Civil War that broke out in 1975, PFLP forces were decimated in battle against Syria Later, the PFLP would draw close to Syria, as Syria's government shifted, but PFLP involvement in the Lebanese war remained strong until the U.S.-negotiated evacuation of PLO units from Beirut in 1982, and continued on a smaller scale after that.

In 1980 Habash suffered a severe stroke and with his consistently poor health younger members of PFLP began up to assume greater responsibilities. During this time Habash lived in Damascus, Syria and the PFLP neared the Syrian Ba'thist regime of Hafez al-Assad, united by the common opposition to Yasser Arafat's increasing concessions including the refusal to tie the PLO position with Syria's claims on the Israeli occupied Golan Heights and the concession of water rights, port access, and recovery of land occupied by Israeli settlers. In 1992 Habash left Damascus to return to Amman.

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