What did the PLO do in Tunisia after leaving Lebanon?
After the PLO was expelled from Lebanon in 1982, Yasser Arafat set up a new headquarters in Tunisia. Even though Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba was generally a moderate in his policy on Israel, and had his own misgivings about the PLO, Tunisia was among the Arab countries that allowed the PLO to resettle from Lebanon. About 1,100 PLO fighters arrived by sea at Bizerte to a tumultuous welcome. The chief greeter was Bourguiba himself, waving from the dock.
The Bourguiba government let the PLO set up headquarters in Borj Cedria near Tunis. Tunis was already the headquarters of the Arab League which had transferred there from Cairo to punish Egypt for signing a peace agreement with Israel. From this new headquarters, the PLO gradually resumed guerrilla warfare on Israel utilizing bases in Lebanon.
On September 25, 1985, three Israelis were murdered in Cyprus. Responsibility for the murders was taken by the PLO's "Force-17". The Israeli government decided to make a retaliatory strike against the PLO headquarters on the Tunisian beachfront. The difficult mission involved a flight of 1280 miles, entirely over water, with mid-air refueling. Eight F-15 Eagles destroyed almost the entire PLO complex, including the PLO chairman's bureau and the headquarters of Force-17. Over 60 PLO terrorists were killed, another 70 injured. There were no IAF losses.
The PLO responded with more terrorist attacks, including seizure of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in October 1985. In the Cairo Declaration of November 7, 1985 the PLO renounced terrorism, but did not follow through with the committment. Over 100 new acts of terror traced to the PLO were documented in the next two years.
The first Palestinian intifada began spontaneously in 1987 largely due to instigation from the Muslim clergy in the mosques, but was quickly siezed upon by the PLO who wrested control from radical Islamic elements and gave support and coordination from Tunisia for riots and terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza. The intifada became the main instrument for the PLO to regain the political momentum against Israel.
On April 16, 1988 Israel's Mossad, authorized by a cabinet decision under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, sent a commando team to assassinate Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad, considered to be the principal PLO planner of military and terrorist operations against Israel. The Mossad team entered Abu Jihad's well-defended residence and shot him and several guards. Although his wife was present, she was not harmed. Arafat claimed the US government was colluding with Israel and planning to kill more PLO leaders. He ordered attacks on US citizens and facilities.
After the PLO was forced to move to Tunis, Arafat's leadership was called increasingly into question by Palestinians. The more militant PLO factions based in Syria and Lebanon gained influence and Arafat seemed to fade. But on December 14, 1988, Arafat told the United Nations that the PLO renounced terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist. He said the PLO supported the right of all parties to live in peace -- Israel included. After this surface change of policy, seventy countries recognized the PLO as the government of the Palestinian Arabs, and Arafat was able to reverse his decline to re-emerge as the clear Palestinian leader following the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and the 1993 Oslo agreement which was negotiated in secret while Arafat remained in Tunis.
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