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Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)



Macina Liberation Front
Macina Liberation Front flag

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It combines Arab nationalism with Marxist-Leninist ideology, viewing the destruction of Israel as integral to the struggle to remove Western capitalism from the Middle East and ultimately establish a Communist Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The group was founded after the Six Day War in 1967, and it became the second largest faction and the main opposition force to Fatah in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1968.

The PFLP fostered links and carried out attacks with leftist militant groups across the world during the 1970s and was actively involved in the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005, during which the group carried out suicide operations and launched multiple joint operations with other Palestinian terrorist groups. The PFLP’s operational tempo has since declined, with only two attacks in the last five years, most recently in 2019 that killed an Israeli teen and injured multiple others.

As of July 2022, the PFLP, along with HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were taking steps to create a National Liberation Front in an attempt to address “internal divisions” and to cooperate with and to rebuild the PLO.

Largely based in the Gaza Strip; also operates and has members in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank


The PFLP targets Israeli government, military, and security personnel, as well as Israeli civilians. In its early years, the PFLP favored large-scale and high-visibility terror attacks like hijacking civilian airliners. Since the late 1970s, the group has focused more on firing rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip at communities in southern Israel and conducting bombing, explosives, and shooting attacks. Fighters are equipped with small arms, light machineguns, artillery rockets, mortars, man-portable surface-to-air missiles, improvised weapons, and explosives, including improvised explosive devices and suicide vests.

The US State Department designated the PFLP as a foreign terrorist organization on 8 October 1997. The State Department designated the group a terrorist organization under Executive Order 13224 for the purpose of financial sanctions against it on 31 October 2001.


Ahmad Sa'adat

Ahmad Sa'adat
Incarcerated; Leader from 2001 to present; imprisoned since 2002, first by Palestinian Authority and later Israel

Abu Ali Mustafa

Abu Ali Mustafa  [DECEASED]
Leader from 2000 to 2001; killed by an Israeli airstrike in August 2001

George Habash

George Habash  [DECEASED]
Founder and leader from 1967 to 2000; died in 2008 of natural causes


23 August 2019

Dolev, Palestinian Territories

A PLFP cell detonates an explosive device near an Israeli settlement, killing a 17-year-old girl and wounding her father and brother

18 November 2014

Jerusalem, Israel

Two PFLP-affiliated Palestinians attack Israeli worshippers in a synagogue with guns, knives, and axes, killing five—including three Americans—and injuring 12

17 October 2001

Jerusalem, Israel

Two PFLP gunmen assassinate Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in a hotel in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that killed then PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa

4 July 1976

Entebbe, Uganda

A PFLP splinter group and German Red Army faction members hijack an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv and land the plane in Entebbe, Uganda, where Israeli commandos later free nearly 100 hostages

30 May 1972

Tel Aviv, Israel

PFLP and Japanese Red Army faction gunmen murder two dozen passengers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport International Airport