Khalil Al-Wazir was a Palestinian leader and a prominent aide of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat
Khalil Al-Wazir was a Palestinian leader and a prominent aide of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat. He was a key factor in the origins of the Palestinian resistance towards Israel. His family was displaced when Israel captured his home town during the war of 1947. This fostered resentment towards Israel early on, which would become the main driving force behind his struggle. He finished school in the Gaza Strip at a high school. It is here that his resentment towards Israel found an outlet. His first “operation” against Israelis came in high school when he organized a group of his friends to harass guards at Israeli outposts. This seemingly harmless activity was only the beginning of a life defined by military prowess. Al-Wazir eventually met Yasir Arafat, and together these two men formed Fatah, and later the Palestinian Liberation Organization. These two organizations were integral in Arafat’s effort to establish an independent state of Palestine. On the Israeli side, Al-Wazir is seen as one of the most dangerous Palestinian terrorists to ever live.
Childhood & Early Life
Khalil Al-Wazir was born on October 20th, 1935, in Ramla, Palestine. This area became part of Israel when Israel was created in 1948.
His father, Ibrahim Al-Wazir, worked in town as a grocer. He lost his livelihood when Israel took over the area and displaced 50,000 Palestinians.
The family relocated to the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Here, Al-Wazir finished high school and developed an animosity towards Israelis. He organized a group to harass Israeli soldiers while still in high school.
Al-Wazir completed his secondary education in Cairo, Egypt, in 1954. Here he met Yasir Arafat, who became leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Khalil Al-Wazir made his mark as a military strategist. In 1954, he was reprimanded by the Egyptian government for involvement in the planning and execution of attacks against Israelis.
In 1956 Al-Wazir was thrown in prison in Egypt for being a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This strict Muslim group was outlawed in Egypt at the time.
Shortly after being released from prison, Al-Wazir received his first official military training.
In 1957 he was detained for a third time, this time for leading military raids against Israel. His punishment was exile to Saudi Arabia. While in Saudi Arabia he became a teacher.
He continued his life as a teacher when he moved to Kuwait in 1959. It was in Kuwait where he focused on building the foundation of the Fatah organization.
In 1958 Al-Wazir and Yasir Arafat started the militant group Fatah. The purpose of Fatah was to use guerilla warfare against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Al-Wazir relocated to Algeria in 1962 to establish relations with the Algerian government, as well as to operate a Fatah training and recruitment facility.
In 1963 he established relations with leaders of communist nations such as North Vietnam, China, and North Korea. This rallied international support for Fatah.
In 1964 Fatah merged with several smaller groups to become the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Arafat was the leader of the PLO and Al-Wazir was his second in command.
Al-Wazir, along with the rest of the Fatah leadership, set up headquarters in Syria in 1965.
In 1966 Al-Wazir and Yasir Arafat were arrested and convicted for their involvement in the death Yusuf Orabi. The two men were eventually pardoned by the secretary-general of Syria.
Al-Wazir played a huge role in the six-day war of 1967. This war, although a defeat, led to Fatah becoming the faction with the most influence over the Palestinian people.
His most important diplomatic efforts came in 1971 when Fatah was expelled from Jordan for the black September fiasco. Al-Wazir reached out to the Jordanian regime and smoothed everything over.
After the black September issue Al-Wazir relocated to Beirut. During this time he planned and executed such attacks as the Savoy operation in 1975 and the Coastal Road Massacre in 1978.
In 1982 he had a disagreement with PLO leadership over the Lebanon civil war. He relocated to Tunisia and focused on building resistance among the youth in the Gaza Strip.
His life and career came to an abrupt end when he was assassinated at his home in Tunisia on April 16, 1988. His assassination is believed to be the work of Israeli commandos.
Khalil Al-Wazir is known for his founding role in ‘Fatah’. This organization was a political and militant group whose mission was to liberate the people of Palestine.
One of the biggest operations ran by Al-Wazir is the Savoy operation in 1975. Eight of his soldiers kidnapped and killed 8 hostages at the Savoy hotel in Tel Aviv. Three of the hostages were Israeli soldiers.
His second biggest operation was the Coastal Road Massacre in 1978. Six of his operatives hijacked a bus and proceeded to kill 35 Israelis
Personal Life & Legacy
Al-Wazir was married to his cousin Intissar in 1962. They had 5 children together, 3 sons and 2 daughters. Their names are Jihad, Bassem, Nidal, Iman and Hanan.
He was a controversial figure throughout his life. The Palestinians saw him as a martyr and a symbol of the fight for freedom. On the other hand, Israel and their allies saw him as the leader of a terrorist organization.
On April 16th, 1988 he was assassinated in front of his wife and son by Israeli commandos.
Not many people know Khalil Al-Wazir briefly studied architecture at the University of Cairo
He also cared deeply about the youth. He remained an active source of hope for the youth until his death.