Force 17

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Force 17
ActiveEarly 1970s - 2007
TypeCommando and special operations unit
Part ofPalestinian Fatah movement and later of the Office of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority
Garrison/HQAl-Fakhani Street in Beirut
EngagementsUganda–Tanzania War
Notable commandersAli Hassan Salameh (Founder)

Force 17 (Arabic: القوة 17) was a commando and special operations unit of the Palestinian Fatah movement and later of the Office of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. It was formed in the early 1970s by Ali Hassan Salameh (Abu Hassan).[1] Initially, the group was housed in building 17 of Al-Fakhani Street in Beirut.[2]


Force 17 was formed by Ali Hassan Salameh in the 1970s in an attempt to professionalize Fatah's intelligence services.[3] Force 17 was also initially responsible for Yasser Arafat's personal security.[4] Salameh is believed to have masterminded the 1972 Munich massacre and was assassinated in January 1979 by Mossad as part of Operation Wrath of God.[5]


In 1994, the unit was largely absorbed into Yasser Arafat’s personal security force, the Palestinian Authority's "Presidential Security".[6][2] In 2006, the unit was separated, to become the Presidential Guard as part of the Palestinian Security Services.[7]

In 2007, a plan to dismantle the remnant of Force 17 and incorporate it into the Presidential Guard of President Mahmoud Abbas was unveiled by Ynet.[8] The Force was merged into the Presidential Guard and the National Security Forces in December 2007.[9]


  • 1979: Force 17 elements were dispatched to Uganda to assist the PLO's efforts to defend the regime of Idi Amin during the Uganda–Tanzania War.[10]
  • September 1985: Gunmen allegedly part of Force 17 stormed a yacht moored in Larnaca, Cyprus killing three Israeli citizens.[11] PLO authorities at the time denied involvement.[12]
  • December 1985: Force 17 claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Moshe Levi. His body was found burning near Mazor.[13]

Rumored operations

  • The group has been accused by some of having carried out the 1987 assassination of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali in London.[14]

Operations against Force 17

  • On January 28, 2001, the IDF captured six members of Force 17, who were believed responsible for the shooting deaths of at least seven Israelis in the Ramallah area, including Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and his wife Talya Kahane. Binyamin Kahane was the son of Kach leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane.[15]
  • February 2001, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile killing prominent Force 17 member Massoud Ayyad.[16]


According to most reports Force 17 was founded in the early 1970s by Ali Hassan Salameh.[17] In 1979 Salameh and his bodyguards were assassinated in Beirut by Israeli intelligence.[18]

Mahmoud Awad Damra reportedly commanded Force 17.[1] In 2006, he was sentenced by an Israeli court to 15 years in prison for his role in planning several attacks against Israel. He was released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Who are Force 17?". BBC. December 4, 2001.
  2. ^ a b "القوة 17والجناح العسكري لفتح". BBC. 1 December 2006.
  3. ^ Bird, Kai (2014). The Good Spy. Crown Publishers. ISBN 9780307889751.
  4. ^ "Palestinian Political Organizations". PBS. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Noam Shalev (24 January 2006). "The hunt for Black September". BBC News Online.
  6. ^ The Palestinian Security Services: Past and Present. MIFTAH, 30 May 2006.
    "Presidential Security: What was Yasser Arafat’s former personal-security force comprised of a highly trained group of some 3,000 officers, now guards Mahmoud Abbas. Most of these men were members of Force 17, an armed unit whose duties included guarding VIPs and securing important locations such the presidential compound in Ramallah."
  7. ^ Friedrich, Luethold, 2007: Appendix A, p. 161.
  8. ^ Waked, Ali (10 August 2007). "Abbas to dismantle Force 17". Ynetnews. Ynet News.
  9. ^ Roland Friedrich, Arnold Luethold and Firas Milhem, The Security Sector Legislation of the Palestinian National Authority Archived 2016-10-07 at the Wayback Machine, p. 272; Decision No. ( ) of 2007, 6 December 2007 (3,2 MB). Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), January 2008. On website Archived 2015-03-07 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Major General Orabi Klub (29 April 2020). "الشهيد العقيد عبد الغفار حلمي الغول" [The martyr Colonel Abd al-Ghaffar Hilmi al-Ghoul]. (in Arabic). Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  11. ^ "3 Israelis Slain by Palestinians in Cyprus". The New York Times. September 26, 1985.
  12. ^ "Israel Asks Cyprus to Extradite Pro-Palestinian Gunmen Accused of Killing 3 Aboard Yacht". Los Angeles Times. September 27, 1985.
  13. ^ "Kidnappings of IDF Soldiers". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  14. ^ "Can a murder that happened three decades ago now be solved?". The Economist. 31 August 2017. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  15. ^ "Israel Security Agency IDF forces arrested terrorists suspected of shootings". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  16. ^ "Arafat aide killed in helicopter ambush". The Telegraph. February 14, 2001.
  17. ^ "The Wooing of the Red Prince". Newsweek. May 20, 2014.
  18. ^ "Robert C Ames and the death of an American view of the Middle East". The National. June 19, 2014.
  19. ^ "Terrorist released in Schalit deal named PA adviser". The Jerusalem Post. January 2, 2012.