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Ahmed Jibril, leader of pro-Syrian Palestinian faction, dies aged 83

Founder of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command was staunch supporter of Bashar al-Assad's government in Syrian civil war
Ahmed Jibril (L) and the Palestinian political chief of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal (R), during a Hamas awards ceremony in the Syrian capital Damascus on 22 December 2010 (AFP)

Ahmed Jibril, the leader of one of the main pro-Syrian Palestinian organisations, has died aged 83 in a hospital in the Syrian capital Damascus.

The head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC), Jibril had lived in Syria for most of his life after his family left for the country in the 1940s, acquiring citizenship at an early age and fighting as a soldier in the Syrian army.

He formed the PFLP-GC in 1968 after breaking away from the Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), following a disagreement over ideology, personal rivalries and the group's relationship with Syria.

The group carried out numerous attacks within Israel, including the Avivim school massacre and Kiryat Shmona in 1970 and 1974 respectively, which saw dozens of civilians - including children - killed.

Palestinian security forces drag and beat protestors in front of Al-Birah police headquarters.
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It played a role as part of the Rejectionist Front along with other Palestinian groups who opposed negotiations with Israel and advocated a military solution to the occupation.

Since the 1970s, the group has been fiercely loyal to, and funded by, the government of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, a relationship which transferred to his son Bashar on his death in 2000.

Although the group has carried out no attacks on Israel since the 1990s, it played a role in the Syrian civil war after 2011, particularly around the Palestinian refugee camps such as Yarmouk in Damascus.

Other Palestinian groups were heavily critical of the PFLP-GC's staunch support for the Assad government and its willingness to assist him in suppressing rebels, including Palestinians.

Officials slammed Jibril for, in their view, dragging Palestinians into a conflict they should not have been involved in.

'Great Palestinian leader'

“Everyone knows the true size of PFLP-GC. They are not representative of the Palestinians. Their acts only represent them, and in fact their membership in the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO] has been frozen for some time now,” said Mariam Abu Dakka, a member of the political bureau of the PFLP in Gaza, speaking to Al-Monitor in 2013.

Lebanon's Al Mayadeen News channel, however, described him as a "great Palestinian leader" in the report on his death.

His son, Jihad Ahmed Jibril, who was tipped to take over the PFLP-GC on Ahmed Jibril's death, was killed in a car bomb attack in Lebanon in 2002.