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This is a set of short biographies of some of the major Palestinian political leaders since 1967

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Nabil Qassis: PA Minister of Planning (from Apr03), previous minister of tourism from 9Jun02; and as Minister without portfolio and as Coordinator-General for "Bethlehem 2000" project from 1998. b.1945, the son of a soldier in the Arab Legion. Left to study in Germany in 1963, training in Physics in Mainz. Obtained his PhD in nuclear physics from AUB in 1972, and worked in France and Italy. Returned to Palestine in 1980, and was appointed professor of theoretical physics at Bir Zayt University in 1982, chairing department from 1982 until his appointment as the university's vice-president for academic affairs (1984-89). Was a member of the Palestinian negotiating team at Madrid (1991-3). Served as a senior figure in delegations to negotiations until 1998, including as deputy head of the delegation to the Washington talks from 1993-4, occasional head of delegations, and as a member of the permanent status negotiating team (from Sept99). Co-founder (in 1996) and head of the Palestine Economic Research and Policy Institute (MAS) until 1998. Proponent of a secular state. A frequent participant in unofficial negotiations with Israeli leaders, such as those at Harvard University's Joint Working Group on the right of return (1998), in South Africa (Jan02) and in Stafford, UK (May02). Lives in Ramallah.

Ahmad Qatamish (Ahmad Sulayman Musa Qatamish): PFLP activist & writer from Ramallah. Held in administrative detention from Sept92 for 5yrs8months, the longest single continuous period Israel has used. Wrote 3 bks in detention, on the nature of the occupation. Released on 15Apr98, after extensive Palestinian campaign. In a subsequent interview, he opposed PF's dialogue with 'Arafat, & spoke of the crisis within the organization. After signing the "Call of the Homeland" petition in Nov99, was arrested by PA forces & held for 3 wks without charge. Was reported to have rejected the post of deputy S-G at the Jul00 conference; has not taken on the high profile leadership role that many in PFLP expected him to take.

Fahd Qawasma: b.1939, agronomist (serving in agriculture department of Israeli military government in the West Bank) & mayor of Hebron from 1976 - only decided to stand after Natsha was deported just prior to the elections. Moderate nationalist, a key figure in competition between PLO, Jordan & Israel for support, & gradually swung to more pro-PLO position in late70s. Deported 2May80 for allegedly inciting violence; appointed to PLO-EC in Nov84, but was assassinated in Amman by unidentified gunmen on 29Dec84.

Ali Ibrahim al-Qawasmi: PA Minister of Youth and Sports from 9Jun02-29Oct02. Previously served as Minister of Transport. Narrowly elected as PLC member for Hebron. Holds a PhD. Voted against Hebron redeployment protocol in the Cabinet in Jan97.

Nasir al-Qidwa: Palestinian ambassador to the UN. A nephew of Yasir 'Arafat, he joined Fatah in 1969, became member of GUPS Executive Committee in 1974, later becoming GUPS president. Completed training in dentistry at Cairo Uni in 1979. Became executive member of Palestinian Red Crescent around this time. PNC member from 1975; PLO-CC member from 1981, Fatah-RC member from 1989. Appointed alternate Palestinian observer at UN from 1986; permanent observer from 1991.

Taysir Quba‘a: PFLP leader. b.1938, from Qalqilya, a former leader of GUPS. Became part of ANM command in Jordan post67, but captured infiltrating into the West Bank in Dec67. Was PF’s first rep to the PLO-EC from Jul71-Jan73; then put in charge of opposing the 1974 interim programme in Lebanon after the formation of the Rejectionist Front, but came to argue for the mini-State option in 1976-7 as a first step towards liberating all Palestine. Politburo member until 1993. Deputy head of PNC. Obtained permission from Israel to return to the West Bank.

Ahmad Qurai‘ (Ahmad ‘Ali Muhammad Qurai‘) [Abu Ala’]: Prime Minister designate of the PA; former long-term speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council & PLC member for Jerusalem. b.1937 in Abu Dis, from a wealthy family. Joined Fatah in 1968. Had been director of PLO’s foreign investment arm, director-general of PLO’s economic department & member of financial subcommittee; elected to Fatah-CC in Aug89. Had a key role in negotiating Oslo accords as chief of delegation, & headed negotiations which led to the Apr94 Paris agreement & Sept95 Oslo II agreement. Is chief negotiator in the final status talks. Minister of Economy & Trade, then Minister for Industry, in the first PA cabinets, before the PLC elections (1994-6); prepared the PLO’s development strategy for the OTs in “Programme for Development of the Palestinian national economy, 1994-2000”, & became Managing-Director of PECDAR since its creation in 1993. Obtained the highest no of votes in Jerusalem in the PNC elections. Has good relations with West Bank NGOs, & is generally seen as “pro-democracy”; won 60/73 votes in PLC re-election for Speaker in Mar00. Also owns a company that produce cement for settlement-building, including Jabal Abu Ghunaym (Har Homa). Has had persistent heart problems, including a heart attack in Sept95. Had surgery to unblock a coronary artery in 2002, and taken to hospital with chest pains in Jun02. Was approached to be the prime minister on the resignation of Mahmud 'Abbas in Sept03, and was sworn in as PM designate of an emergency cabinet on 7Oct03.

Salih Ra’fat: S-G of Fida; former leader of DFLP. A member of ANM pre67, took leading role in the PFLP committee for the OTs in 1968. As a strong leftist, he joined the breakaway PDF in Feb69, & became member of politburo. Captured by Jordan at ‘Ajlun in Jul71, interred in Jafar prison camp, & only released in general amnesty for PDF members in mid73 [was also made an honorary member of PLO-EC until Jan73 - ?]. Stayed in Jordan & re-arrested in Jul74. Supported ‘Abd-Rabbu's break from DFLP; nominal head of Fida. Stood for election to PLC in Jenin district in 1996, but not successful. Signatory to 20Jun02 statement in al-Quds appealing for an end to suicide bombings.

Jibril Rajub: Former head of Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, with the rank of Colonel; Fatah-RC member. b.1953, Dura. Spent 17 years in Israeli prison (1968-85) for throwing a grenade at a military vehicle; learnt to speak fluent Hebrew & English in prison, entailing frequent appearances on Israeli TV (where the Hebraization of his name, Gavriel Regev, has taken hold). Released as part of a prisoner exchange, but expelled from West Bank to Lebanon in 1988. Then based in Tunis, acting as deputy to Khalil al-Wazir & acting as the advisor on the intifada. Returned to West Bank in 1994. Has aimed to turn Fatah in the West Bank into a much more loyal pro-PA organisation. Was subject of rumours in Nov97 that he was planning to take control of the West Bank in the event of ‘Arafat’s health worsening; and was suspended from Fatah-CC from Dec97 for 8 months, ostensibly for denouncing the nationalist credentials of Sakhr Habash (who had accused him of attempting to militarize Fatah). Is strongly opposed to any Jordanian role in West Bank's future. Reportedly accused by ‘Arafat of insubordination during a heated row over Rajub's failure to prevent the storming of Hebron jail by Palestinian activists (11Feb02). After Israel bombed his headquarters (3Apr02), he surrendered 50 activists sheltering there to Israel in a CIA-brokered deal > strongly criticised, including by Dahlan's Gang of 5. Was sidelined in Cabinet reorganisation of Jun02, and failed to win support from Egypt for his position. ‘Arafat ordered his removal on 2Jul02, reportedly offering him the post of Governor of Jenin; refused to comply until 4Jul.

Nayif Rajub: A religious cleric, brother of Jibril, appointed PA minister of religious affairs in Mar06.

Abd al-Aziz Rantisi: former Hamas spokesman in Gaza, leader in Gaza for 25 days before his death in 2004. b.Oct 1947, Jibna (nr Jaffa); refugee in Khan Yunis. Trained as a medical doctor & paediatrician in Alexandria Uni (-1972, 1974-6), when he first came into contact with the Ikhwan; on that basis, founded Islamic Centre in Gaza in 1973 & joined Ikhwan as a member on his return to Gaza in 1976. From then, worked in Khan Yunis & at Islamic Uni Gaza from its opening in 1978; but dismissed as head of paediatrics at Khan Yunis hospital by Israel in 1983 & was variously imprisoned (esp Mar88-Sept90). Led Hamas (with Zahhar) after Apr89, & was deported by Israel to Marj al-Zuhur in Dec92, where he acted as spokesman for the deportees. On return, was re-arrested (Dec93) & held until Apr97. Again held by PA in detention without trial for 21 months until Feb00, accused of involvement in the killing of Mohieddin Sharif. Arrested again in Jul00 after calling the Palestinian participation in the Camp David talks an act of treason; released in Dec00; intermittently rearrested, esp in Dec01. Based in Shaykh Radwan area of Gaza City. Interview here. Killed in an Israeli missile strike on 17Apr04. Obituary here.

Muhammad Rashid (Khalid Salam): economic advisor to ‘Arafat; deals with PA’s business affairs. Was editor of Sawt al-Bilad, a weekly magazine in West Bank that was 1stly under direct sponsorship of Wazir, from 1986 under ‘Arafat. Was part of 3-man delegation that held talks with Sharon in Jan02, and was unofficially in charge of negotiating with Israel during the Mar-May02 onslaught, and heads committee on reform of the PA established subsequently.

Ahmad Sa‘adat [Abu Ghassan]: secretary-general of the PFLP. b.1953, al-Bira, the son of refugees from Dayr Tarif (nr al-Ramleh). Began as a student activist in 1967, joined the PFLP in 1969. Trained as a maths teacher at the Ramallah Institute for Teachers (diploma in 1975). Has spent a total of 10yrs in Israeli prisons from 1969 (esp 4 years from 1976); also arrested by PA three times in 1995-6. Elected to PFLP-CC in Apr81; to politburo in Mar93 (when in administrative detention); commander of West Bank Branch Committee from 1994. Widely seen as a "hardliner" within PFLP, strongly opposing compromises with Israel. Elected as S-G on 3Oct01 (press conference here). Resided in al-Bira with wife, Abla, & 4 children. Arrested by PA on 15Jan02, in response to Israeli demands following the PFLP's killing of Ze'evi. Under siege with ‘Arafat in the Ramallah compound in Mar-Apr02, and convicted there; transferred to Jericho prison under US/UK guard on 1May02. The High Court in Gaza ordered his release; the PA ignored, spurring protests for his release. His younger brother, Muhammad, was killed by Israeli soldiers on 20Aug02. A letter from prison (14Jan03) opposed the Quartet's Road Map.

Salah Salah: former PFLP leader. Early ANM activist in Damascus, taking major role in local branch after 1961 break-up of UAR. Served as an independent member of PLO-EC in 1971-Jan73 [?]. PFLP politburo member until Feb93, when he refused to stand for re-election having been strongly criticised for compromises with the PLO. Chair of PNC Returnees Committee, thus with place on PLO-CC.

Ali Hassan Salameh [Abu Hassan, the "Red Prince"]: PLO's chief of intelligence. b.1943?, son of Shaykh Hassan Salameh, he was educated in Germany and is thought to have received military training in Cairo & Moscow. A Fatah recruit, Israel alleged that he was the leader of the Black September Organisation. Within the PLO, he founded & headed the elite Force 17 (taking its name from his Beirut telephone extension). He served as the PLO's contact with the CIA from 1969, and is alleged (also here) to have passed them information on non-mainstream fida’i groups. Is also remembered for his wife, Georgina Rizak, a Lebanese Christian beauty queen who was crowned Miss Universe (& who inspired a character in the John Le Carré novel The Little Drummer Girl). Assassinated by Israel on 22Jan79 by a remote-control bomb in Beirut.

Fahmi al-Salfiti: former leader of the JCP. From Salfit, active in creation of JCP in Jun51. In general, sought accommodation with the Jordanian monarchy. When parliamentary leaders were imprisoned in 1957, and Fu'ad Nassar in exile, he served as acting secretary-general; in opposition to Nassar's strategy, he opposed the West Bank strikes of 1966, leading to internal splits. After 1967, he ran the JCP headquarters from Amman, accepted SCR242 and argued against commencing guerrilla activities. He also promoted loyalty to the monarchy as a means of liberating the territories, denying the Palestinian character of the struggle in the West Bank (Nouvelle Revue Internationale, Oct-Nov68; in Khamsin, 7: 21-40). With the West Bank party turning away from a pro-Hashimite position, his supporters split to form the Palestine Communist Youth in 1975 (became PC Organisation in 1977).

Abd al-Jawad Salih: mayor of al-Bira from Jordanian rule era. b.3/12/1931, al-Bira; graduated in economics from AmUni Cairo, taught in Jerusalem & then in Libya; returned to West Bank in 1962/5?, in business. Elected to mayor of al-Bira in 1967 before the war. Strong role in creating & leading PNF, & deported by Israel to Jordan for this on 10Dec73. Subsequently served on PLO-EC, where he frequently argued with ‘Arafat, until 1981. Author of Israel’s policy of de-institutionalisation (1987) & headed the Jerusalem Centre for Development Studies in Amman. Stood for election to PNC, winning highest number of votes in Ramallah district; seen as leader of the pro-democracy camp on his election. Was briefly minister of agriculture in the PA (from 9May96), but became one of ‘Arafat’s sternest critics; remains an independent member of the PLO-CC. Voted against Hebron redeployment agreement (Jan97) & formation of new PA cabinet in Aug98, & refused to take a position as a minister without portfolio in it. A leading signatory of the Nov99 Cry of the Homeland petition; assaulted by PA intelligence officers for this.

Nimr Salih [Abu Salih]: leading Fatah leftist. A refugee from Qulia, al-Lid. Headed pol guidance within Fatah general command, but was warned in 1968 for leading dissent within Jordan; allowed to head the Fatah militia in Jordan, but dismissed after seen to be creating a personal power base. Elected to Fatah-CC in Sept71 to hold overall responsibility for Syria & Lebanon (after Walid Nimr’s death). From there, & seemingly in alliance with ‘Arafat, started coordinating leftist figures into an independent faction within Fatah; esp in Lebanon from 1972. From Oct73, strongly promoted view that SU would have major role, & promoted the “national authority” slogan for this purpose: headed the “Soviet group”, & formed alliance with Wazir. Led anti-Syria position by attacking Maronite strongholds in early76. Also backed SU intervention into Afgh in 1979, causing rift with Saudi. Strongly opposed Fahd & Reagan plans, issuing statement with PF & PF-GC to condemn latter; and with Syrian support denounced ‘Arafat in Nov82 for Fez Decl & coop with Jordan. Backed Maragha rebellion from Jan83; membership in Fatah-CC was frozen (Jan83) & was dropped from Fatah list for PNC. Leadership struggle within dissident movement led to Syria turning against him, placing him under house arrest (Jun84) where he died of a heart attack in Sept91.

Qays Samarra’i (Qays ‘Abd al-Karim) [Abu Layla]: Founder member of DFLP; member of DFLP-CC since 1969. Background is as an Iraqi Ba‘thist activist. Thought to have written the seven major articles (in consultation with ‘Abd-Rabbu & Hawatmah) in al-Hurriya from Aug-Oct73, signed Yasari Filastini (a Palestinian leftist) which argued for a "revolutionary national authority" in the WBG which would serve to allow the Palestinian struggle to continue until the Arab-wide democratic revolution changed the international balance of forces; present struggle must shift to driving out the occupying force = formed the basis of the "phased programme" of Jun74 PNC. After ‘Abd-Rabbu split [?], was appointed deputy S-G of DFLP; & moved to Ramallah in 1999 [?]. Israel attempted to assassinate him on 30Aug01, when a bomb exploded in his apartment at night; but was out.

Isam Sartawi: PLO negotiator & physician; founded AOLP. b.1935, Acre. Trained in medicine in Baghdad (where he built enduring links with Iraqi elite), specialising in cardiology in the US. Helped establish the Palestinian Red Crescent Soc; & went on to create AOLP initially to act as medical relief personnel for PRM, later firearms specialists. After its reincorporation into Fatah in 1971, was advisor to ‘Arafat on US & European affairs; & was charged with devg contacts with moderate Israelis. Began meetings with Israeli members of the Israel-Palestinian Peace Council in Autumn 1976. Frequently criticised at the PNC (though his mandate came from the Mar77 PNC), ‘Arafat refused to accept his repeated letters of resignation (though Sartawi later criticised him for not defending him publicly: Le Monde interview, 22Jan82). Assassinated 12Apr83 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hamid Sa’ih: West Bank religious leader. b.Nablus in 1908, lived in E.Jerusalem, where he became a member of Jordanian Shari‘a Court of Appeals, based in Amman. Attended the ceremony that founded the Muslim Brotherhood's central office in Jerusalem in May46, and claimed he declined the offer to be the Brotherhood's leader. After 1967, was chosen as head of the Islamic Board, and thus became Acting Chief Qadi, & head of Higher Committee for National Guidance. Deported by Israel in Sept67, & became Jordanian Minister for Religious Affairs and the Holy Places (briefly), & later Chief Qadi. Became speaker of PNC in 1984, resigning in May93 (reportedly because of opposition to PLO’s negotiating stance). d. in Jordan in Jan01.

Mamduh Sabri Saidam [Abu Sabri]: Former Fatah field commander. Refugee from ‘Aqr (al-Majdal) to Gaza; taught in Algeria & trained in its army in 1964. Recruited through Wazir, & moved to join Fatah field command in Damascus (1965). Member of first Fatah-CC, heading Fatah forces in Jordan in 1970. Died in Jul71 of cancer.

Sabri Saidam: Former PA minister of telecommunications (2005-06). b.1971, son of Mamdouh Sabri Saidam. Holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Imperial College London (1999).

Sa‘d Sayil [Abu Walid]: Fatah military leader. From Nablus; joined Jordanian army, in which he became an infantry brigade commander. Left during Sept70 to join Fatah, where was made commander of the Yarmuk forces, & chaired Higher Military Committee from late70s. An ‘Arafat loyalist, he became a senior aide. Coordinated direct consultations with US ambassador in Lebanon to protect the US embassy in 1976. Killed in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, 29Sept82.

Salah Shahada: Hamas leader and founding member; status of Shaykh. b.24Feb54, Bayt Hanun, from a refugee family from Jaffa. Studied social science at Cairo Uni after having to refuse places at Russian and Turkish universities in engineering and medicine, due to inability to pay fees; joined the Ikhwan as a student in Egypt. Acted as a social worker, and jailed for 2 years from 1984. One of the 7 founders of Hamas; had initial responsibility for the creation of the ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades; spent a total of 12 years in prison from 1988, firstly after being convicted by an Israeli court and later (from late 1998) in administrative detention. After his release on 14May00 (Hamas statement here), he headed the ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and Israel reportedly considered him as having primary responsibility for Hamas attacks on settlements in the Gaza Strip; at least 3 assassination attempts upon him, and PA forces attempted (unsuccessfully) to arrest him in Jun01. His house in Bayt Hanun was partially destroyed by Israeli tanks in Dec01 (& reoccupied on 12Feb02). His nephew, Bilal Shahada, was killed in an attack on Netzarim in Mar02. Gave an interview to the Jordanian weekly al-Sabil on the organising of suicide bombers in May02. Killed on 22Jul02, in an Israeli missile strike on his residence in the Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza city, an attack which killed his wife, Layla, and one of his daughters, Iman; and 12 others.

Abd al-Aziz Shahin [Abu ‘Ali Shaheen]: PA Minister of Supply from 1996 to Apr03 & PLC member for Rafah (Fatah). b.1941(?), expelled from Gaza in 1986. Most famous for his sit-in at the checkpoint from Rafah to Gaza city in Jul98, which launched a series of Palestinian blockades on settlements in the Strip. A proponent of mass action, he also organised the mass resignation of PA ministers in 1997 in response to the corruption allegations. His house was damaged when Israeli tanks fired shells at it on 23Jan02. Served as Fatah's representative to the Gaza talks of the major factions up to Aug02, when he blamed Hamas' external leadership for vetoing the agreed draft and quit as Fatah representative.

Nasir al-Sha'ir: a prominent academic from al-Najjah University in Nablus, and Hamas member. b. 1961, Nablus, training at al-Najjah and securing a PhD in Manchester Uni, UK, in Middle Eastern studies. Later worked as a research scholar on religion & democracy at New York Uni, focusing on US history (1998). Took position of dean of Islamic Studies & Law at al-Najjah in 2001. Appointed education minister and deputy prime minister in March 2006.

Bassam Shak‘a: mayor of Nablus. b.1931, nephew of Hamdi Kan‘an & son of Ahmad Shak‘a (a prominent Nashashibi supporter, who led the ‘peace bands’ into conflict with the Husaynis). A graduate, becoming a senior Ba‘thist on the Jordanian West Bank, heading the Nablus branch; after persecution, fled to Syria (‘58), but left party & then moved to Egypt. Returned with amnesty of 1965. Elected as mayor of Nablus in 1976, the most notable of the triumphs of the nationalist bloc; supported non-cooperation with the military government. Imprisoned pending deportations (11Nov79) after allegedly expressing support in a private conversation for PLO attacks on civilian targets; after 21 West Bank mayors submitted resignations, general strike & demonstrations, Israel reversed decision on 5Dec. On 2Jun80, was maimed by bombs (attributed to Israeli settlers), losing both his legs. Dismissed & replaced with Israeli official in purge of 18Mar-30Apr82, whilst the individual convicted for his maiming became the mayor of the nearby settlement. Continues to live in Nablus, where his cousin is now mayor; critical of PA & Oslo.

Ghassan Shak‘a (Ghassan Walid Ahmad Shak‘a): PA-appointed mayor of Nablus from Oct94; member of PLO-EC, & PLC member for Nablus (Fatah). Was placed on the 7-member Fatah slate for Nablus in the 1996 elections on 'Arafat's insistence even though he only came 14th in the Fatah primaries held in late 1995. A lawyer (LLB, Beirut, 1971), representing Nablus lawyers union from 1986. Lost considerable popularity when he doubled the price of water & electricity in Nablus, & cut off families who couldn’t pay. Member of PA's High Council for Refugee Camps (established 1997). Cousin of Bassam.

Ramadan Shallah (Ramadan ‘Abdullah Shallah): head of Islamic Jihad. b. in Saja'iyah refugee camp. Had been involved with secular-nationalist organisations, joining Shqaqi-Awda faction in early80s. Fled Gaza after Israeli crackdown in early80s, studied at Durham University UK where he gained a PhD in Islamic economics; & then moved to the US where he helped run the World & Islam Studies Enterprise (estd 1990, based in Florida). Left US in May95; took over as Islamic Jihad head in Nov95 after the assassination of Fathi Shqaqi in Oct. Now based in Damascus.
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