The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a small left-wing group within the Palestine Liberation Organisation that is usually dwarfed by Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and the militant Hamas organisation, came to the fore today by claiming responsibility for the attack on the Jerusalem synagogue that left four worshippers dead.
In contrast to recent Palestinian car attacks on Israeli pedestrians that seemed impromptu and not linked to an organisation, yesterday’s assault appeared well planned. The Har Nof neighbourhood is not close to any Arab districts and it would be impossible to navigate to the target without foreknowledge. The assumption last night was that the attackers, or those sending them, must have staked out the synagogue to find out what time it would be full of worshippers. “The PFLP is a small organisation in Jerusalem and the area, but if they make something, they make it big to show they still exist,” said Shaul Bartal, a lecturer in Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University.
In 2001, PFLP operatives assassinated the Tourism Minister, Rehavam Zeevi, at a Jerusalem hotel in revenge for Israel’s killing of its leader, Abu Ali Mustafa. During last summer’s Gaza war the PFLP announced that it had fired missiles at Israel from the coastal enclave.
In pictures: Jerusalem synagogue attack
In pictures: Jerusalem synagogue attack
Mourners attend the funerals of Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Avraham Goldberg, three of the four people killed in a shooting attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem
A young mourner during the triple funeral of Rabbi Kalman Levine, Avraham Goldberg and Arieh Kupinsky
Ultra-Orthodox Jews mourn during a eulogy ceremony ahead of the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Twersky, one of the four jewish victims
Israeli Zaka emergency services volunteers carry the body of one of the two Palestinian assailants who were shot dead while attacking worshippers at a synagogue to an ambulance in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
An Israeli man that was injured in an attack, by two Palestinians on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue, is taken to an ambulance by emergency personnel in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
A bullet hole in the synagogue's front glass seen from inside and looking outwards to the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem
An Israeli rescue worker navigates the scene of the shooting attack
Blood trails are seen on the floor near covered bodies at the scene of the attack on November 18, 2014
The bloody scene of the deadly attack
An Ultra-orthodox jewish man prays at the scene of an attack, by two Palestinians, on a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
Masked Palestinians hold axes and a gun as they celebrate with others an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
An Israeli police officer gestures as he holds a weapon near the scene of an attack at a Jerusalem synagogue
Blood trails are seen on the floor at the scene of an attack at a Jerusalem synagogue
Israeli emergency services personnel clean the sidewalk at the scene of an attack, by two Palestinians, on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
Israeli security forces stand next to the body of one of two Palestinian assailants who were shot dead while attacking a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
Israeli security personnel run next to the synagogue in Har Nof, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place
Israeli Zaka emergency services volunteers carry the body of an assailant who was shot dead while attacking a synagogue
Ultra-orthodox Jews watch the scene, after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
Israeli security forces secure the scene after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
Israeli security forces secure the scene, after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem
But on the whole, the PFLP has been a marginal force in the Palestinian armed struggle. Its heyday was in 1970 when it hijacked international airliners, triggering King Hussein’s crackdown on the PLO in Jordan.
Sufyan Abu Jamal, a cousin of the two synagogue assailants, said he was not aware that Uday Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal were members of any Palestinian group. “Ghassan’s behaviour was normal in recent weeks,” he said. Jamal Abu Jamal, a PFLP member who is another cousin of the two, was arrested by Israeli forces two weeks ago, he added.