In the 1960s and 70s, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) achieved notoriety with a series of airplane hijackings and other terrorist attacks, receiving support from the Kremlin as well as from other Communist guerrilla groups. Following the end of the cold war, the group faded into irrelevance. The IDF, however, recently carried out an operation against a member of the PFLP, which was responsible for the murder of the seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb last year. Jonathan Spyer explains what has brought the organization “back from the dead”:
The movement has returned to relevance in recent months because of a burgeoning relationship developed with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This growing PFLP-Iran connection is not a new revelation. It has been well reported in recent years. [T]he specific reason for Iran’s renewed support for the PFLP relates to the Syrian civil war. The clash between the Iran-supported Assad regime and the largely Sunni Islamist insurgency led to a rupture between Tehran and the Palestinian Hamas movement which has not been entirely repaired. Hamas, which emerged from the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, strongly supported the Syrian rebellion. It maintains close relations today with Qatar and Turkey, and finds its natural home in the Sunni Islamist nexus supported by these states.
The partial loss of Hamas, combined with the Hamas’s difficulty in building armed networks in the West Bank because of Israeli and Palestinian Authority attention, has led Tehran to look further afield. The PFLP’s position on Syria was consistent and unambiguous: it strongly supported Assad throughout the war.
Like Islamic Jihad, Tehran’s longstanding proxy among the Palestinians [in Gaza], the PFLP is a small organization with a somewhat eccentric ideology possessing little appeal among the broad masses of the conservative, religious Palestinian population. It possesses, nevertheless, a tight organizational structure, a cadre of fiercely loyal militants, and a willingness to engage in violence. It now appears that Teheran’s steady investment in the movement over the last half decade has begun to deliver results.