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Force 17 is an elite commando and special operations unit of the Palestinianmarker Fatah movement and later of the Office of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

Force 17 was formed in the early 1970s by senior Fatah militant Ali Hassan Salameh (Abu Hassan)

Unlike various units formed within Fatah previously the premise of Force 17 was assassinating Israeli political figures. The importance of such a unit was made clear by the heavy losses suffered by the PLO leadership in Operation Spring of Youth (1973). Force 17 was used by Fatah to protect PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, his top lieutenants, as well as diplomats of the organization. They accompanied Arafat during his 1974 address to the United Nations in New York City.

Two of the key setbacks of the group was the assassination of Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) in 1991 by a member of Sabri al-Banna's (Abu Nidal) group not far from there. This came after a relatively successfully period when senior Fatah leaders emerged relatively unscathed from the Lebanese Civil War, despite being targeted by Syriamarker, Israelmarker, Christian militias, and Palestinian rivals within and outside of Fatah. They contributed greatly to the legend that Arafat had nine lives. In 1979 their founder Salameh was assassinated in Beirutmarker, along with a group of his own bodyguards.

In the 1990s the unit was evolved from an organ of Fatah to an official unit of the Palestinian Authority's national security apparatus. During the Second Intifadeh Force 17 or members of it were illegally tasked with responsibilities ranging from acquiring and securing arms shipments for Palestinian armed groups loyal to Arafat, to carrying out terror attacks or resisting incursions by Israeli military or police forces into PA territory (Area A). Proof of these actions were allegedly found during Operation Defensive Shield (June 2002) when IDF forces besieged Arafat and Force 17 in his Muqat'ah compound in Ramallahmarker, and broke into the PA's own file records.

Since Arafat's death the unit's future has become increasingly clouded, given the rise in internal tensions within the PA security organs, the threat to the hegemony of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and the victory of Hamas in 2005 parliamentary elections. The unit is staffed almost entirely by fanatical Fatah stalwarts who would have difficulty accepting a Hamas leader should Abu Mazen be replaced in the near future.

The unit is also considered a chess piece in Fatah's internal wars. Because of the warlord structure of PA security authorities, each one loyal to a local leader, and the similar situation within the Fatah sub-organizations Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Tanzim that do as they please paying no heed to Fatah's official leader Abu Mazen, Force 17 is one of most stable organs within Fatah, and the man who controls their loyalty is supposed to be the one who controls the movement. Force 17 was crucial for decades in preventing PLO and Fatah chieftains from usurping Arafat's power, and today it plays the same role for Abu Mazen.



On 28 January 2001 the Israel Defense Force captured six members of Force 17, who were believed responsible for the shooting deaths of at least seven Israelis in the Ramallahmarker area, including Binyamin Kahane and his wife Talia Kahane. Binyamin Kahane is the son of the far-right, Israeli politician Rabbi Meir Kahane.

In 2007, Force 17 was dismantled and incorporated into Presidential Guard of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

See also



References

  1. http://212.150.54.123/organizations/orgdet.cfm?orgid=86
  2. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3457445,00.html



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