Ahmed Jibril, Palestinian leftist leader and Assad loyalist, dies

Ahmed Jibril, Palestinian leftist leader and Assad loyalist, dies
3 min read
08 July, 2021
Ahmed Jibril, the founder of the PFLP-GC and a longtime ally of the Assad regime, died on Wednesday in Damascus.
Ahmed Jibril [pictured] founded the PFLP-GC after a fallout with PFLP leader George Habash [Getty]

Ahmed Jibril, a prominent Palestinian leftist leader with longtime ties with Syria's Assad regime, died in Damascus aged 83 on Wednesday.

Jibril, who founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) group in 1968, died after suffering from a recent illness, according to his son Bader. He will be buried on Friday in the cemetery of the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Syrian capital.

Jibril, who holds Syrian citizenship, founded his splinter group with the alleged help of Syrian intelligence in 1968, after falling out with George Habash, leader of the PFLP.

He was born in 1939 and fled to Syria during the Nakba, the expulsion of Palestinians that led to the formation of Israel. He then became an officer in the Syrian army.

Jibril had a long history of aligning with the Assad regime. During the Lebanese Civil War, which spanned between 1975 to 1990, the PFLP-GC sided with then-president Hafez Al-Assad.

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More recently, Jibril was hit with widespread criticism by Palestinians for aligning his group behind President Bashar Al-Assad's forces at the start of the Arab Spring uprisings. He maintained close ties with Assad throughout the war, even as attacks against civilians worsened with the reported use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons. 

PFLP-GC fighters fought alongside Syrian regime forces in battles to take control of the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp. The group came under fire for aligning with the regime as it carried out indiscriminate barrel bombing attacks in the shelter.

Yarmouk is a district in Damascus that is home to the largest concentration of Palestinians in Syria.

The PFLP-GC group also has close ties with the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which has also taken the side of the Assad regime.

Accused attacks and opposition to Palestinian leadership

The PFLP-GC was also notorious for carrying out dozens of attacks across the Middle East and Europe, including aeroplane bombings, kidnappings and letter bombs. It was accused of carrying out 1970 bombing of a Swiss airliner in mid-air, killing all 47 passengers and crew, and a 1972 attempt to blow up an El Al plane using a booby-trapped record player.

The guerrilla group has carried out several operations against Israel in southern Lebanon.

Jibril's popularity briefly rose in 1985 after he negotiated a prisoner deal with Israel, which saw the release of more than 1,000 prisoners, including long-serving Palestinian detainees, in return for the release of three Israeli soldiers. Among those released was Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

He was also a staunch opponent of Yasser Arafat's move to sign the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s. Jibril continued to criticise Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, and gained a reputation for refusing to engage in dialogue with rival Palestinian leaders.

"He has dedicated his life to serving Palestine and the front and stayed the course until his death," the PFLP-GC said in a statement mourning its leader.