Ahmed Jibril, a former captain in the Syrian army and head of the radical Popular Front-General Command group, is planning to move to the Gaza Strip, one of his aides was quoted on Sunday as saying.
The leaders of other Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine [DFLP] are also planning to move from Damascus to the Gaza Strip. Last month, Nayef Hawatmeh, secretary-general of the DFLP, announced that he would move to the Gaza Strip soon.
Adel Hakim, a senior member of the Popular Front-General Command, said Jibril expressed his desire to move to the Gaza Strip during a recent meeting between the two in Damascus. However, he added that Jibril had set a number of conditions for entering the Gaza Strip first and foremost that Israel relinquished control over all the border crossings and main roads into the area.
Hakim told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that it was most probable that Jibril would decide to live in the Gaza Strip permanently after visiting the area. "I don't know exactly what's going on in his mind, but Jibril has a strong bond with the Palestinian cause and people and this may prompt him to stay there," he said.
According to Hakim, a senior delegation representing the Popular Front-General Command is expected to visit the Gaza Strip to prepare for Jibril's arrival as soon as the Rafah border crossing is placed under joint Palestinian-Egyptian control.
Jibril's group, which consists of several hundred gunmen, broke away from the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation in 1968, saying it wanted to focus more on fighting and less on politics.
The group, which has close ties with Syria and Iran, remains strongly opposed to the Oslo Accords. Jibril's son, Jihad, was killed by a car bomb in Lebanon in May 2002.
Since its establishment the group, which has several training bases in Lebanon, has carried out dozens of attacks in Europe and the Middle East.
In 1985 hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, some of them jailed for life, were released by Israel in a deal with Jibril's group in return for three IDF soldiers who had been captured in Lebanon.
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