Six Palestinian guerrilla groups allied with Syria announced today that they are banding together in a Palestinian National Salvation Front to oust PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.
The new front also vowed to "escalate Palestinian armed struggle against Israel from all Arab borders" and to sabotage Arafat's recent agreement with Jordan's King Hussein on a joint approach for a negotiated settlement with Israel.
The emergence of the new front was announced at a news conference by Khaled Fahoum, former speaker of the Palestine National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organization's parliament in exile. Top leaders of the six groups, including George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, attended the briefing.
Habash's agreement to join the new front was considered by Palestinian affairs experts here as a victory for the pro-Syria camp within the PLO.
Long Silent on Arafat
The Marxist leader, whose guerrillas introduced aircraft hijacking as a political tactic to the Middle East in the late 1960s, has long refused to take a public stand against Arafat. Instead, he had been cooperating with the pro-Moscow Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine headed by Nayef Hawatmeh to mediate a reconciliation between Arafat and the five Syria-backed factions.
Habash, however, was angered by Arafat's endorsement of the accord with Hussein without consulting opposition groups within the guerrilla movement, said Palestinian sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hawatmeh did not join the new anti-Arafat front.
The new front "is by no means designed to replace the PLO," Fahoum stressed. "This is a temporary situation until the surrenderist leaders of the PLO are ousted."
Fahoum did not mention Arafat by name, but the term "surrenderist" was an obvious allusion to him. Officials of the pro-Syrian factions have been publicly accusing Arafat of "surrenderism" and "defeatism" since the conclusion of the Amman, Jordan, accord with Hussein, Syria's foe.
Fahoum said the new front is made up of Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; the PFLP-General Command of Ahmed Jibril; Saika; the Popular Struggle Front; the Palestinian National Front, and dissidents from Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction led by Col. Said Moussa, better known as Abu Moussa.
"In order to safeguard our revolution and confront the dangers threatening our cause, the Palestinian National Salvation Front is formed to bring together all those who want to adhere to the . . . PLO charter and all those who want to foil the illegal Amman accord," Fahoum said.
"We shall struggle to thwart the course of surrender and those leading it," Fahoum said. "We shall struggle to scuttle all surrenderist courses such as the Amman accord."