Sunday, January 27, 2008


George Habash, Palestinian Terrorism Tactician, Dies at 82 (NYT)
Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a hard-line Marxist group that shocked the world with a campaign of airline hijackings and bombings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, died Saturday of a heart attack in Amman, Jordan. Although accounts varied, he was believed to be 82.

“He had a severe heart attack, and he died instantly,” Leila Khaled, a longtime Front associate and herself a high-profile airplane hijacker in 1969, told Al Jazeera by telephone from the Jordan Hospital, where Mr. Habash had been a patient. He also had cancer.

The Palestinian ambassador to Jordan, Atala al-Khairy, said Mr. Habash had been in the hospital for a week and that he died after a surgical procedure to implant a stent.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, ordered three days of mourning and flags lowered to half-staff in the Palestinian territories.

Mr. Habash was best known as the Palestinian leader who adapted modern terrorist tactics as a weapon in the conflict with Israel. From the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 to the simultaneous hijacking of three Western airliners to Amman, Jordan, in September 1970, the Front stayed in the news with high-profile attacks that other Palestinian groups never seemed able to match.

“When we hijack a plane it has more effect than if we kill a hundred Israelis in battle,” he told the German magazine Der Stern in 1970. “For decades, world public opinion has been neither for nor against the Palestinians. It simply ignored us. At least the world is talking about us now.”

But his list of enemies did not stop at Israel. He was sharply critical of existing Arab governments, most of which he said should be overthrown; of a long series of attempts at peace negotiations; and of his longtime rival, Yasir Arafat. A stubborn opponent of the Oslo accords, Mr. Habash refused to set foot in the areas under the nominal control of the Palestinian Authority.

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