World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Palestine Liberation Army

The Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) was ostensibly set up as the military wing of the 1964 Arab League summit held in Alexandria, Egypt, with the mission of fighting Israel. However, it has never been under effective PLO control, but rather it has been controlled by its various host governments, usually Syria.


  • History and structure 1
  • Popular Liberation Forces 2
  • History of deployment 3
  • The PLA today 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

History and structure

Immediately after its creation at the 1964 Arab League summit in Alexandria, the PLO (then headed by Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction wrested it from Nasser-backed Palestinians in 1968-69, when the Arab states were discredited by losing the Six-Day War, and militant Palestinian organizations were rapidly gaining in importance.

The PLA was originally organized into three brigades, named after historic battles:

These brigades were staffed by Palestinian refugees under the control of the host countries, who would perform their military service in these units instead of in their host countries' regular armed forces. Formally, the PLA was under the command of the PLO's Military Department, but in practice, none of the governments involved relinquished control of the brigades.

At its largest, the PLA comprised eight brigades with a total of some 12,000 uniformed soldiers. They were equipped with small arms, mortars, rocket launchers, wheeled armored personnel carriers and T-34 tanks. However, the PLA was never deployed in the form of a single fighting unit for the PLO, but instead battalion-size elements were utilized as an auxiliary force by its controller governments.[1]

Popular Liberation Forces

In 1968, the Popular Liberation Forces (Arabic, quwwat at-tahrir ash-sha'biyya), better known as the Yarmouk Brigade, were established within the framework of the PLA to perform commando actions against Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, occupied by Israeli forces the year before. Generally the PLA refrained from this kind of underground action, having been built up as something of a conventional military parade showpiece.

History of deployment

The fact that the PLA was formally Palestinian was used as political cover by the host governments. Syria, especially, would make great use of its PLA units. In 1970 it sent hastily repainted Syrian Army tanks under the command of the PLA into Jordan to aid the Palestinian guerrillas during the Black September fighting. After international pressures, and threats of intervention from both Israel and the USA, they were forced to turn back; an embarrassment which would contribute greatly to the overthrow of the government of Salah Jadid by Hafez al-Assad.[1]

During the Lebanese Civil War, Syria likewise made extensive use of the PLA as a proxy force, including against the PLO (the PLA however proved unreliable when ordered to fight other Palestinians, and suffered from mass defections). The PLA was largely destroyed as a fighting force during the 1982 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon that started the 1982 Lebanon War.[1] Its fighters in Lebanon left for Tunis when the PLO evacuated Beirut that year, in a US-sponsored cease fire agreement. The Egyptian PLA was also deployed in Lebanon in 1976, after Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat had approached the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, to mend relations damaged by Sadat's peacemaking attempts with Israel. Still, the Egyptian units never proved as important as the fully deployed Syrian PLA.

The PLA today

PLA soldiers later became the core of the Palestinian Authority's (PNA) National Guard, after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, when they were allowed to enter the Palestinian Territories to take up positions in the PNA security services.

The Syrian PLA remains in operation, closely coordinated with the Syrian-controlled

  • PLA at Global Security
  • Palestine Liberation Army leader Yasser ARAFAT

External links

  • Yezid Sayigh, 'Escalation or Containment? Egypt and the Palestine Liberation Army, 1964–67,' International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 30, Issue 1, 1998, pp97–116.
  • Hillel Frisch, The Palestinian Military: Between Militias and Armies (Middle Eastern Military Studies) – March 30, 2008 ISBN 978-0415609425

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d Arab Armies of the Middle East Wars 1948-73. John Laffin, Osprey, Men at Arms Series 128, 1982 and 2000, ISBN 0-85045-451-4
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.


Similar Organizations:

See also

Recently, with the establishment of the Palestine National Authority (PNA), important parts of those brigades in Egypt and Jordan were absorbed into the PNA security forces. It is reported that approximately 4,500 PLA members remain in Syria.[2] During the Syrian Civil War, at least 17 PLA soldiers and 6 officers were killed, with the highest ranking fatality being a Brigadier General, Anwar al-Saqa.[3][4]


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.