In the 1970s and 1980s, Ahmed Jibril was one of the most extreme Palestinian militants who opposed Israel, and he was the leader of a group that was responsible for a series of aeroplane hijackings, kidnappings, and attacks. He died on July 7 in Damascus, Syria, after a battle with cancer. He was 84 years old.
A senior official in the militant group Mr. Jibril founded, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Anwar Raja, claimed that heart failure was the cause of Mr. Jibril’s death.
He was based in Syria, and his forces later sided with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war in the years following his death in 2011.
After assisting Palestinian Marxist George Habash in establishing the Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1967, Mr. Jibril split from Mr. Habash and formed his own splinter organisation the following year. The Popular Front-General Command, which Mr. Jibril led at the time, joined the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was led by the dominant Palestinian political figure of the time, Yasir Arafat, but soon broke away from it.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Israel regarded Mr. Jibril as a “master terrorist,” and its intelligence agency, the Mossad, placed him on a wanted list alongside Yasser Arafat, Hussein Habash, and Abu Nidal, a fellow militant leader who had collaborated with Mr. Jibril. The Popular Front-General Command has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States.
When the group planted a time bomb on a Swissair plane flying from Zurich to Tel Aviv in 1970, it killed all 47 passengers and crew members on board. It was one of the group’s deadliest attacks to date. It was one of a number of attacks on civilian aircraft carried out by Mr. Jibril’s organisation.
During Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the Popular Front-General Command captured three Israeli soldiers and held them in captivity. In 1985, the group successfully negotiated their release in exchange for the release of more than 1,100 Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian prisoners.
Mr. Jibril’s fighters crossed the border from Lebanon into Israel on hang gliders in an incident that became known as “the Night of the Gliders” two years later, killing six Israeli soldiers and wounding seven others in what became known as “the Night of the Gliders.”
Many commentators later described that event as helping galvanise Palestinians at the outset of the First Intifada, or uprising, a period of rock-throwing protests against the Israeli occupation. The immediate cause of the uprising was an Israeli army vehicle that struck and killed four Palestinians in a refugee camp about a month after Mr. Jibril’s attack.
Mr. Jibril was described as “a proponent of high-tech terrorism” in a 1990 profile published in The New York Times Magazine, which noted that his forces had adopted the innovative use of walkie-talkies and suicide bombing equipment in the event of capture. Furthermore, according to the profile, Mr. Jibril never achieved widespread popularity among Palestinians.
He has remained a staunch opponent of negotiations with Israel.
Jibril was born in April 1937 to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother near the city of Jaffa in what was then British-ruled Palestine. He was the son of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the family relocated to Syria.
Mr. Jibril received his education at a military academy and went on to become an expert in demolition. He became a citizen of Syria and served as a captain in the Syrian Army for several years.
Mr. Jibril’s family includes his wife, three sons, Khalid, Bader, and Nasr, and three daughters, Ghazwa, Majd, and Nour. He was predeceased by his wife in 2007. When Jihad, another son of the family, was killed in an attack in Beirut in 2002, he was serving as the head of the Popular Front’s military operations. The group placed the blame on Israel, which denied any involvement in the killing.