Jordanian military victory:
Syrian raid repelled
PLO driven out to Lebanon
Black September Organization
Commanders and leaders
Abu Ali Iyad
Zaid ibn Shaker
(two armoured, one mechanized infantry brigade)
Casualties and losses
PLO: 3,400 dead
Syria: 600 Syrian casualties (dead and injured)
120 tanks and APCs lost
Jordan: 537 dead
Black September (Arabic: أيلول الأسود;
was the conflict fought in
Jordan between the Jordanian Armed Forces
(JAF), under the leadership of King Hussein, and the Palestine
Liberation Organisation (PLO), under the leadership of Yasser Arafat,
primarily between 16 and 27 September 1970, with certain actions
continuing until 17 July 1971.
Jordan lost control of the
West Bank to Israel in 1967,
Palestinian fighters known as fedayeen moved their bases to
stepped up their attacks on Israel and Israeli-occupied territories.
One Israeli retaliation on a
PLO camp based in Karameh, a Jordanian
town along the border with the West Bank, developed into a full-scale
battle. The perceived joint Jordanian-Palestinian victory in the 1968
Karameh led to an upsurge in Arab support for the
Palestinian fighters in Jordan. The PLO's strength in
Jordan grew, and
by the beginning of 1970, groups within the
PLO had started to openly
call for the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy. Acting as a state
within a state, the fedayeen disregarded local laws and regulations,
and even attempted to assassinate
King Hussein twice—leading to
violent confrontations between them and the Jordanian army in June
1970. Hussein wanted to oust the fedayeen from the country, but
hesitated to strike because he did not want his enemies to use it
against him by equating Palestinian fighters with civilians. PLO
Jordan culminated in the
Dawson's Field hijackings
Dawson's Field hijackings incident
of 10 September, in which the fedayeen hijacked three civilian
aircraft and forced their landing in Zarqa, taking foreign nationals
as hostages, and later blowing up the planes in front of international
press. Hussein saw this as the last straw, and ordered the army to
On 17 September, the Jordanian army surrounded cities with a PLO
Amman and Irbid, and began shelling the fedayeen,
who had established themselves in Palestinian refugee camps. The next
day, a Syrian force with
Palestine Liberation Army
Palestine Liberation Army markings,
intervened in support of the fedayeen. It advanced towards
which the fedayeen had declared a "liberated" city. On 22 September,
the Syrians withdrew after the Jordanian army launched an air-ground
offensive that inflicted heavy Syrian losses. Pressure mounted by Arab
countries led Hussein to halt the fighting. On 13 October he signed an
agreement with Arafat to regulate the fedayeen's presence. However,
the Jordanian army attacked again in January 1971. The fedayeen were
driven out of the cities, one by one, until 2,000 fedayeen surrendered
after being surrounded in a forest near
Ajloun on 17 July, marking the
end of the conflict.
Jordan allowed the fedayeen to leave for Lebanon via Syria, and they
later became a combatant in the 1975 Lebanese Civil War. The Black
September Organization was founded during the conflict to carry out
reprisals. The organization's first operation was the assassination of
Jordanian Prime Minister
Wasfi Al-Tal in 1971. It then shifted to
attacking Israeli targets, including the highly publicized 1972 Munich
massacre of Israeli athletes.
1.1 Palestinians in Jordan
1.2 PLO's growing strength after the Battle of Karameh
1.3 Seven-point agreement
1.4 Ten-point edict and June confrontations
2 Black September
2.1 Aircraft hijackings
2.2 Jordanian army attacks
2.3 Foreign intervention
2.4 Egyptian brokered agreement
2.5 Pakistani role
2.6 Iranian leftists' role
2.8 Post-September 1970
4 See also
7 External links
Palestinians in Jordan
Main article: Palestinians in Jordan
View of Jabal Al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in Amman.
Jordan annexed the
West Bank in 1951, it conferred its
citizenship on the
West Bank Palestinians. The combined population
West Bank and
Jordan consisted of two-thirds Palestinians
(one-third in the
West Bank and one-third in the East Bank) and
Jordan provided Palestinians with seats
amounting to half the parliament and Palestinians enjoyed equal
opportunities in all sectors of the state. This demographic change
influenced Jordanian politics.
King Hussein considered that the Palestinian problem would remain the
country's overriding national security issue; he feared an
West Bank under
PLO administration would threaten the
autonomy of his Hashemite kingdom. The Palestinian factions were
supported variously by many Arab governments, most notably Egypt's
President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who gave them political support.
The Palestinian nationalist organization
Fatah started organizing
cross-border attacks against Israel in January 1965, often drawing
severe Israeli reprisals upon Jordan. The
Samu Incident launched
by Israel on 13 November 1966 was one such reprisal, after three
Israeli soldiers were killed by a
Fatah landmine. The Israeli
assault on the Jordanian controlled
West Bank town of As-Samu
inflicted heavy casualties on Jordan. Israeli writer Avi Shlaim
argued that Israel's disproportionate retaliation exacted revenge on
the wrong party, as Israeli leaders knew from their interaction with
Hussein that he was doing everything he could to prevent such
attacks. Hussein, who felt he had been betrayed by the Israelis,
drew fierce local criticism because of this incident. It is thought
that this contributed to his decision to join Egypt and Syria's war
against Israel in 1967. In June 1967 Israel captured the West Bank
Jordan during the Six-Day War.
PLO's growing strength after the Battle of Karameh
Main article: Battle of Karameh
Jordan lost the West Bank,
Fatah under the
PLO stepped up their
guerrilla attacks against Israel from Jordanian soil, making the
border town of
Karameh their headquarters. On 18 March 1968, an
Israeli school bus was blown up by a mine near
Be'er Ora in the Arava,
killing two adults and wounding ten children—the 38th Fatah
operation in little more than three months. On 21 March, Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) units entered
Jordan and launched a reprisal
Karameh that developed into a full-scale battle that lasted
a day. The
PLO suffered some 200 casualties and another 150 taken
prisoner; 40–84 Jordanian soldiers were also killed. Israeli losses
stood at around 30 killed and 69–161 wounded, and they also left
behind several vehicles.
King Hussein after checking an abandoned Israeli tank on 21 March 1968
during the Battle of Karameh. The perceived joint
Palestinian-Jordanian victory led to an upsurge in support for the
fedayeen in Jordan.
Both sides declared victory: Israel had fulfilled its objective of
Karameh camp, but failed to capture Arafat, while
Jordan and the
PLO had exacted relatively heavy Israeli
casualties. Although the Palestinians had limited success in
inflicting Israeli casualties,
King Hussein let them take the
credit. The fedayeen used the battle's wide acclaim and
recognition in the Arab world to establish their national claims.
Karameh operation also highlighted the vulnerability of bases
close to the
Jordan River, so the
PLO moved them farther into the
mountains. Further Israeli attacks targeted Palestinian militants
residing among the Jordanian civilian population, giving rise to
friction between Jordanians and guerrillas.
Palestinians and Arabs generally considered the battle a psychological
victory over the IDF, which had been seen as "invincible" until then,
and recruitment into guerilla units soared.
Fatah reported that
5,000 volunteers had applied to join within 48 hours of the events at
Karameh. By late March, there were nearly 20,000 fedayeen in
Jordan. Iraq and
Syria offered training programs for several
thousand guerrillas. The Persian Gulf states, led by Kuwait,
raised money for them through a 5% tax on the salaries of their tens
of thousands of resident Palestinian workers, and a fund drive in
Lebanon raised $500,000 from
Beirut alone. The Palestinian
organizations also began to guarantee a lifetime support for the
families of all guerrillas killed in action. Within a year after
Fatah had branches in about eighty countries. After
Fatah gained control of the
PLO in Egypt.
Palestinian fedayeen from
Syria and Lebanon started to converge on
Jordan, mostly in Amman. In Palestinian enclaves and refugee camps
in Jordan, the police and army were losing their authority. The
Wehdat and Al-Hussein refugee camps came to be referred as
"independent republics" and the fedayeen established administrative
autonomy by establishing local government under the control of
PLO militants—setting up checkpoints and attempting to
extort "taxes" from civilians.
Main article: Seven-point agreement (Jordan)
Fedayeen of the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
in Jordan, early 1969.
In early November 1968, the Jordanian army attacked a fedayeen group
named "Al-Nasr" (meaning victory) after the group had attacked
Jordanian police. Not all Palestinians were supportive of
Al-Nasr's actions, but the Jordanian response was meant to send a
message that there would be consequences for challenging the
government's authority. Immediately after the incident, a
seven-point agreement was reached between
King Hussein and Palestinian
organizations, that restrained unlawful and illegal fedayeen behavior
against the Jordanian government.
PLO could not live up to the agreement, and came to be seen more
and more as a state within a state in Jordan. Fatah's Yasser
Ahmad Shukeiri as the PLO's leader in February
1969. Discipline in the different Palestinian groups was poor, and
PLO had no central power to control the different groups. A
situation developed of fedayeen groups rapidly spawning, merging, and
splintering, sometimes trying to behave radically in order to attract
recruits. Hussein went to the
United States in March 1969 for
talks with Richard Nixon, the new American president. He argued
for Israel's adherence to United Nations Security Council Resolution
242, in which it was required to return territories it had occupied in
1967 in return for peace. Palestinian factions were suspicious of
Hussein, as this meant the withdrawal of his policy of forceful
resistance towards Israel, and these suspicions were further
heightened by Washington's claim that Hussein would be able to
liquidate the fedayeen movement in his country upon resolution of the
Fatah favored not intervening in the internal affairs of other Arab
countries. However, although it assumed the leadership of the PLO,
more radical left-wing Palestinian movements refused to abide by that
policy. By 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
(PFLP) led by
George Habash and the Democratic Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) led by Nayef Hawatmeh, began to openly
question the legitimacy of the Hashemite monarchy, and called for its
overthrow and replacement with a revolutionary regime. Other
radical left-wing groups included the Syrian Ba'ath's As-Sa'iqa, and
the Iraqi Ba'ath's Arab Liberation Front: these saw Hussein as "a
puppet of Western imperialism", " a reactionary", and "a Zionist
tool". They claimed that the road to
Tel Aviv passed through
Amman, which they sought to transform into the
Hanoi of Arabia.
They also stirred up conservative and religious feelings with
provocative anti-religious statements and actions, such as putting up
Leninist slogans on mosque walls.
PFLP patrol in Amman, 12 June 1970.
According to Shlaim, their growing power was accompanied by growing
arrogance and insolence. He quotes an observer describing the PLO
They drove noisily around
Amman in jeeps with loaded weapons, like an
army of occupation; they extorted financial contributions from
individuals, sometimes foreigners, in their homes and in public
places; they disregarded routine traffic regulations, failed to
register and license their vehicles, and refused to stop at army
checkpoints; they boasted about their role of destiny against Israel
and belittled the worth of the army. Their very presence in Amman, far
from the battlefield, seemed like a challenge to the regime.
Palestinians claimed there were numerous agents provocateurs from
Jordanian or other security services present among the fedayeen,
deliberately trying to upset political relations and provide
justification for a crackdown. There were frequent kidnappings and
acts of violence against civilians: Chief of the Jordanian Royal
Court (and subsequently Prime Minister)
Zaid al-Rifai claimed that in
one extreme instance "the fedayeen killed a soldier, beheaded him, and
played football with his head in the area where he used to live".
Ten-point edict and June confrontations
The situation placed Hussein in a severe dilemma: if he used force to
oust the fedayeen, he would alienate himself from the Palestinians in
the country and the Arab World. However, if he refused to act to
strike back at the fedayeen, he would lose the respect of Jordanians,
and more seriously, that of the army, the backbone of the regime,
which already started to pressure Hussein to act against them. In
King Hussein visited Egyptian President Nasser in
Cairo, and won his support for taking a tougher stance against the
fedayeen. Nasser also agreed to influence the fedayeen to desist
from undermining Hussein's regime. Upon his return, he published a
ten-point edict restricting activities of the Palestinian
organizations, which included prohibition of the following: carrying
arms publicly, storing ammunitions in villages, and holding
demonstrations and meetings without prior governmental consent.
The fedayeen reacted violently to these efforts aimed at curbing their
power, which led Hussein to freeze the new regulation; he also
acquiesced to fedayeen demands of dismissing the perceived
anti-Palestinian interior minister Muhammad Al-Kailani. Hussein's
policy of giving concessions to the fedayeen was to gain time, but
Western newspapers started floating sensationalized stories that
Hussein was losing control over
Jordan and that he might abdicate
PLO leaders: Yasser Arafat,
Nayef Hawatmeh and
Kamal Nasser speaking
at a press conference in
Amman after the June events, 1970.
Arabia and Kuwait, who were openly supporting the
Jordan financial subsidies, placing Hussein in a
difficult position. Hussein saw no external forces to support him
other than the
United States and Israel, but that would act as
fuel for fedayeen propaganda against him. On 17 February 1970, the
American embassy in
Tel Aviv relayed three questions from Hussein to
Israel asking about Israel's stance if
Jordan chose to confront the
fedayeen. Israel replied positively to Hussein, and committed that
they would not take advantage if
Jordan withdrew its troops from the
borders for a potential confrontation.
Israeli artillery and airforce attacked
Irbid on 3 June as reprisal
for a fedayeen attack on Beit Shean, killing one soldier, as well as
killing seven and injuring twenty-six civilians. The Jordanian
army retaliated and shelled
Tiberias for the first time in 22 years;
Hussein ordered the shelling but realized it was the start of a
dangerous cycle of violence. Consequently, he requested, through
the American embassy in Amman, a ceasefire with the Israelis to buy
time so that he could take strong measures against the fedayeen.
The message to Israel stated that "the Jordanian government was doing
everything it could to prevent fedayeen rocket attacks on Israel. King
deeply regrets the rocket attacks.
Jordan Army under orders to shoot
to kill any fedayeen attempting to fire rockets and fedayeen leaders
had been told again evening of June 3 that violators would be shot on
sight". Israel accepted Hussein's request following pressure from
In the summer of 1970, the Jordanian army was on the verge of losing
its patience with the fedayeen. After a provocation from the
fedayeen, a tank battalion moved from the
Jordan Valley without orders
from Amman, intending to retaliate against them. It took the
personal intervention of Hussein and that of the 3rd Armored Division
Sharif Shaker, who blocked the road with their cars, to stop
We had thousands of incidents of breaking the law, of attacking
people. It was a very unruly state of affairs in the country and I
continued to try. I went to Egypt, I called in the Arabs to help in
any way they could – particularly as some of them were sponsoring
some of these movements in one form or another – but without much
success, and towards the end I felt I was losing control. In the last
six months leading up to the crisis the army began to rebel. I had to
spend most of my time running to those units that had left their
positions and were going to the capital, or to some other part of
Jordan, to sort out people who were attacking their families or
attacking their soldiers on leave. I think that the gamble was
probably the army would fracture along Palestinian-Jordanian lines.
That never happened, thank God.
Hussein later recalling the events
Fighting broke out again between the fedayeen and the army in
7 June. Two days later, the fedayeen opened fire on the General
Intelligence Directorate's (mukhabarat) headquarters. Hussein went
to visit the mukhabarat headquarters after the incident, but his
motorcade came under heavy fedayeen fire, killing one of his
guards. Bedouin units of the army retaliated for the assassination
attempt against their king by shelling Al-Wehdat and Al-Hussein camps,
which escalated into a conflict that lasted three days. An Israeli
army meeting deliberated on events in Jordan; according to the
director of Israel's Military Intelligence, there were around 2,000
Amman armed with mortars and Katyusha rockets.
Hussein's advisors were divided: some were urging him to finish the
job, while others were calling for restraint as victory could only be
accomplished at the cost of thousands of lives, which to them was
unacceptable. Hussein halted the fighting, and the three-day
conflict's toll was around 300 dead and 700 wounded, including
A ceasefire was announced by Hussein and Arafat, but the PFLP did not
abide by it. It immediately held around 68 foreign nationals
hostage in two
Amman hotels, threatening to blow them up with the
Sharif Shaker and
Sharif Nasser were not dismissed and
Special Forces unit disbanded. Arafat did not agree with the
PFLP, but had to play along as he feared public opinion. Hussein
compromised and reduced tensions by appointing Mashour Haditha
Al-Jazy, who was considered a moderate general, as army chief of
Abdelmunim Al-Rifai as prime minister, who in turn included
six Palestinians as ministers in his government. Henry Kissinger,
President Nixon's security advisor, gave the following assessment of
the events in Jordan:
The authority and prestige of the Hashemite regime will continue to
decline. The international credibility of
Jordan will be further
compromised... Greater fedayeen freedom of action will inevitably
result in more serious breaches of the ceasefire in the Jordan
Valley... Hussein faces an uncertain political future.
Newsreel about King Hussein's challenges in 1970.
June 1970 became one of the most uncertain periods for the Hashemite
monarchy in Jordan, as most foreign diplomats believed that events
favored the fedayeen, and that the downfall of the monarchy was just a
matter of time. Although Hussein was confident, members of his
family started to wonder for how long the situation would last.
Prince Zeid bin Hussein
Prince Zeid bin Hussein – the only son of Hussein bin
Sharif of Mecca) that did not become a king – was visiting
Amman in June and stayed with Hussein in the royal palace. He saw
Hussein's management of the affair, and before he left, told his son
that he thought Hussein to be the "most genuine, able and courageous
Hashemite he had ever met", as well as "the greatest leader among all
the Hashemite kings."
Another ceasefire agreement was signed between Hussein and Arafat on
10 July. It recognized and legitimized fedayeen presence in Jordan,
and established a committee to monitor fedayeen conduct. The
Rogers Plan for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
was publicized in July—based on Security Council Resolution 242.
Nasser and Hussein accepted the plan, but Arafat rejected it on 26
July, claiming that it was a device to liquidate his movement. The
PFLP and DFLP were more uncompromising, vehemently rejecting the plan
and denouncing Nasser and Hussein. Meanwhile, a ceasefire was
reached between Egypt and Israel on 7 August, formally ending the War
of Attrition. On 15 August, Arafat was alleged to have said that
"we have decided to convert
Jordan into a cemetery for all
Amman shall be the
Hanoi of the revolution."
Paradoxically, Arafat had cautioned Habash and Hawatmeh, the
respective leaders of the PFLP and the DFLP, from provoking the
regime, as it enjoyed military superiority and could terminate their
Jordan at any time. But his calls went unheeded, and
they started to call more openly for the overthrow of the Hashemites
as a "prelude to the launching of a popular war for the liberation of
Palestine." Another engagement between the army and the fedayeen
occurred at the end of August, after the fedayeen ambushed army
vehicles and staged an armed attack on the capital's post office.
Main article: Dawson's Field hijackings
Jordanian army unit escorts rescued family back to Amman, 9 September
Hussein's motorcade came under fire on 1 September for the second time
in three months, triggering clashes between the army and the fedayeen
Amman up until 6 September. On 6 September, three planes were
hijacked by the PFLP:
SwissAir and TWA jets that landed at Azraq,
Jordan, and a Pan Am jet that was flown to
Cairo and immediately blown
up after passengers were deplaned. The two jets that landed in
Jordan had 310 passengers; the PFLP threatened to blow them up if
fedayeen from European and Israeli prisons were not released. On 9
September, a third plane was hijacked to Jordan: a
BOAC flight from
Bahrain with 115 passengers was diverted to Zarqa. The PFLP
announced that the hijackings were intended "to bring special
attention to the Palestinian problem". After 371 hostages were
removed, the planes were dramatically blown up in front of
international press on 12 September. However, 54 hostages were
kept by the organization for around two weeks. Arab regimes and
Arafat were not pleased with the hijackings; the latter considered the
them to have caused more harm to the Palestinian issue. But Arafat
could not dissociate himself from the hijackings, again because of
Arab public opinion.
Dawson's Field aircraft being blown up in
Zarqa by Palestinian
fedayeen in front of international press, 12 September 1970.
Al-Jazy, the perceived pro-Palestinian newly appointed army chief of
staff, resigned on 9 September in the midst of the hijacking crisis,
and was replaced by Habis Al-Majali, who was brought in from
retirement. Natheer Rasheed, the intelligence director who had
been appointed a month earlier, claimed that Al-Jazy was paid 200,000
Jordanian dinars, and that his resignation letter was written by the
PLO. Shlaim claims that the prelude consisted of three stages:
"conciliation, containment and confrontation". He argues that
Hussein was patient so that he could demonstrate that he had done
everything he could to avoid bloodshed, and that confrontation only
came after all other options had been exhausted, and after public
opinion (both international and local) had tipped against the
Jordanian army attacks
On the evening of 15 September, Hussein called in his advisors for an
emergency meeting at his
Al-Hummar residence on the western outskirts
of Amman. Amer Khammash, Habis Al-Majali,
Sharif Shaker, Wasfi
Zaid al-Rifai were among those who were present; for some
time they had been urging Hussein to sort out the fedayeen. The
army generals estimated that it would take two or three days for the
army to push the fedayeen out of major cities.
Hussein dismissed the civilian government the following day and
appointed Muhammad Daoud, a Palestinian loyalist to head a military
government, thereby declaring martial law. Other Palestinians in
the military government included figures like Adnan Abu Oudeh, an
officer in the mukhabarat. Abu Oudeh later asked Hussein what the
most difficult decision was that he had to make, to which the king
replied: "The decision to recapture my capital."
King Hussein in a
Black September meeting with his advisors: Prime
Wasfi Al-Tal (right) and army Chief of Staff Habis Al-Majali
(left), 17 September 1970.
On 17 September, the 60th Armoured Brigade entered the capital Amman
from different directions and shelled the Wehdat and Hussein refugee
camps where the fedayeen were based with tanks, artillery and
mortars. The fedayeen put up a stiff resistance as they were well
prepared, and the fighting lasted the next ten days without break.
Simultaneously, the army surrounded and attacked other
fedayeen-controlled cities including: Irbid, Jerash,
Zarqa. The three days estimated by Hussein's generals could not be
achieved, and the ensuing stalemate led Arab countries to step up
pressure on Hussein to halt the fighting.
Jordan feared foreign intervention in the events in support of the
fedayeen; this soon materialized on 18 September after a force from
Palestine Liberation Army
Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) markings marched towards
Irbid, which the fedayeen had declared a "liberated" city. The 40th
Armoured Brigade managed to block the Syrian forces' advance after
heavy fighting. A second, much larger, Syrian incursion occurred on
the same day: it consisted of two armored and one mechanized infantry
brigades of the 5th Infantry Division, and around 300 tanks.
Although the Syrian tanks had PLA markings, the troops were Syrian
Syria issued no statement regarding the situation,
but it is believed that the purpose of its intervention was to help
the fedayeen overthrow the monarchy. Another tentative explanation
is that the Syrians wanted to create a haven for the fedayeen in
northern Jordan, from where they could negotiate with Hussein.
Map showing fedayeen concentrations in
Jordan prior to September 1970,
and the Syrian invasion.
There were also concerns of Iraqi interference. A 17,000 man 3rd
Armoured Division of the
Iraqi Army had remained in eastern Jordan
since after the 1967 Six-Day War. The Iraqi government sympathized
with the Palestinians, but it was unclear whether the division would
get involved in the conflict in favor of the fedayeen. Thus, the
Jordanian 99th Brigade had to be detailed to monitor the Iraqis.
David Raab, one of the plane hijacking hostages, described the initial
military actions of Black September:
We were in the middle of the shelling since Ashrafiyeh was among the
Jordanian Army's primary targets. Electricity was cut off, and again
we had little food or water. Friday afternoon, we heard the metal
tracks of a tank clanking on the pavement. We were quickly herded into
one room, and the guerrillas threw open the doors to make the building
appear abandoned so it wouldn't attract fire. Suddenly, the shelling
Hussein arranged a cabinet meeting on the evening of the Syrian
incursion, leaving them to decide if
Jordan should seek foreign
intervention. Two sides emerged from the meeting; one group of
ministers favored military intervention from the United Kingdom or the
United States, while the other group argued that it was an Arab affair
that ought to be dealt with internally. The former group prevailed
Jordan was facing an existential threat. Britain refused to
interfere militarily for fear of getting involved in a region-wide
conflict; arguments such as "
Jordan as it is is not a viable country"
emerged. The British cabinet then decided to relay the Hussein's
request to the Americans.
Nixon and Kissinger were receptive to Hussein's request. Nixon ordered
the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet to be positioned off the coast of Israel,
near Jordan. By 19–20 September, the
U.S. Navy had concentrated
a powerful force in the Eastern Mediterranean. Its official
mission was to protect American interests in the region and to respond
to the capture of about 54 British, German, and U.S. citizens in
PLO forces. Later, declassified documents showed that
Hussein called an American official at 3 a.m. to request American
intervention. "Situation deteriorating dangerously following
Syrian massive invasion", Hussein was quoted. "I request immediate
physical intervention both land and air... to safeguard sovereignty,
territorial integrity and independence of Jordan. Immediate air
strikes on invading forces from any quarter plus air cover are
Jordanian soldiers surrounding an abandoned Syrian tank in Irbid, 17
On 22 September, Hussein ordered the
Royal Jordanian Air Force
Royal Jordanian Air Force to
attack the Syrian forces. A joint air-ground offensive proved
successful, contributing to the success was the Syrian Air Force's
abstention from joining. This has been attributed to power
struggles within the Syrian Ba'athist government between Syrian
Salah Jadid and
Syrian Air Force
Syrian Air Force commander Hafez
Al-Assad. Al-Assad claimed power after a coup on 13 November.
Iraqi impartiality was attributed to Iraqi general Hardan Al-Tikriti's
commitment to Hussein not to interfere—he was assassinated a year
later for this. It is thought that the rivalry between the Iraqi
Ba'ath Party was the real reason for Iraqi
Egyptian brokered agreement
The airstrikes inflicted heavy losses on the Syrians, and on the late
afternoon of 22 September, the 5th Division began to retreat. The
Israeli Air Force flew symbolically over the Syrian units in support
of Hussein, but did not engage. Jordanian forces steadily shelled
the fedayeen's headquarters in Amman, and threatened to also attack
them in other regions of the country. The Palestinians suffered
heavy losses, and some of their commanders were captured. On the
other hand, in the Jordanian army there were around 300 defections.
Hussein agreed to a cease-fire after Arab media started accusing him
of massacring the Palestinians. Jordanian Prime Minister Muhammad
Daoud defected to Libya after being pressured by President Muammar
Al-Gaddafi, while the former was in Egypt representing
Jordan at an
emergency Arab League summit. Hussein himself decided to fly to
Cairo on 26 September, where he was met with hostility from Arab
leaders. On 27 September, Hussein and Arafat signed an agreement
brokered by Egyptian President Nasser. Nasser died the following
day of a heart attack.
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser brokering a ceasefire between
Yasser Arafat and
King Hussein at the emergency Arab League summit in
Cairo on 27 September 1970. Nasser died the following day of a heart
The Jordanian army regained control of key cities and intersections in
the country before accepting the ceasefire agreement brokered by
Egypt's Nasser. Hussein appointed a Palestinian, Ahmad Toukan, as
prime minister, instructing him to "bandage the wounds".
In the period following the ceasefire, Hussein publicly revealed that
the Jordanian army had uncovered around 360 underground
PLO bases in
Amman, and that
Jordan held 20,000 detainees, among whom were "Chinese
The head of a Pakistani training mission to Jordan, Brigadier Muhammad
Zia-ul-Haq (later Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan), was
involved on the Jordanian side.
Iranian leftists' role
Two Iranian leftist guerilla organizations, the Organization of
Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas (OIPFG) and the People's Mujahedin
of Iran (PMOI), were involved in the conflict against Jordan.
Their "collaboration with the
PLO was particularly close, and members
of both movements even fought side by side in
Jordan during the events
Black September and trained together in
Fatah camps in
Lebanon". On 3 August 1972, PMOI operatives bombed the Jordanian
Tehran during King Hussein's state visit as an act of
"revenge" for the events of Black September.
See also: Palestinian casualties of war
Arafat claimed that the Jordanian army killed 25,000
Palestinians—other estimates put the number at between 2,000 and
3,400. The Syrian invasion attempt ended with 120 tanks lost, and
around 600 Syrian casualties. Jordanian soldiers suffered around
Wasfi Al-Tal (right) with
Yasser Arafat (left) on 12 December 1970
during ceasefire negotiations. Premier Al-Tal was assassinated on 28
November 1971 in Egypt by the
Black September Organization.
Another agreement – called the
Amman agreement – was signed
between Hussein and Arafat on 13 October. It mandated that the
fedayeen respect Jordanian sovereignty and desist from wearing
uniforms or bearing arms in public. However it contained a clause
Jordan recognize the
PLO as the sole representative of
Wasfi Al-Tal rejected this clause. Habash
and Hawatmeh continued their attacks on the monarchy in spite of the
Amman agreement. Hussein appointed Al-Tal to form a government.
Al-Tal was seen as anti-Palestinian, however he had made
pro-Palestinian gestures during his previous two tenures as prime
minister. Al-Tal viewed Arafat with suspicion as he considered
PLO concentrated its efforts against the Jordanian state
rather than against Israel. On one occasion, Al-Tal lost his
temper and shouted at Arafat "You are a liar; you don't want to fight
Israel!". Shlaim describes Al-Tal as a more uncompromising figure
than Hussein, and very popular with the army.
Clashes between the army, and the PFLP and DFLP, ensued after Al-Tal
was instated. Al-Tal launched an offensive against fedayeen bases
along the Amman-
Jerash road in January 1971, and the army drove them
Irbid in March. In April, Al-Tal ordered the
relocate all its bases from
Amman to the forests between
Jerash. The fedayeen initially resisted, but they were hopelessly
outnumbered and outgunned. In July, the army surrounded the last
remaining 2,000 fedayeen from the Ajloun-
Jerash area. The fedayeen
finally surrendered and were allowed to leave to Syria—some 200
fighters preferred to cross the
Jordan River to surrender to Israeli
forces rather than to the Jordanians. At a 17 July press
conference, Hussein declared that Jordanian sovereignty had been
completely restored, and that there "was no problem now".
The events proved to be a decisive landmark in the history of Jordan;
it witnessed the emergence of a distinct Jordanian identity. The
courage that Hussein displayed against the joint Palestinian-Syrian
challenge impressed both the West and Israel. Nixon ordered $10
million in aid to be delivered to Jordan, and another $30 million
requested from Congress.
A group of fedayeen surrendering to Israeli forces after having fled
Jordan River, 21 July 1971.
Black September Organization
Black September Organization was established by
Fatah members in
1971 for reprisal operations and international strikes after the
September events. On 28 November 1971, four of the group's members
assassinated Prime Minister
Wasfi Al-Tal in the lobby of the Sheraton
Cairo Hotel in Egypt while he was attending an Arab League summit.
Al-Tal's last words were "They killed me. Murderers... they believe
only in fire and destruction." The group would go on to perform
other strikes against Jordan, and against Israeli and Western citizens
and property outside of the Middle East, such as the Munich massacre
against Israeli athletes in 1972. The
Black September Organization
was later disbanded in 1973–1974 as the
PLO sought to exploit the
Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War of 1973 and pursue a diplomatic strategy.
always publicly denied its responsibility for Black September
operations, but by the 2000s, some high-ranking
Fatah and Black
September officials acknowledged the relationship.
In the September fighting, the
PLO lost its main base of
operations. Fighters were driven to
Southern Lebanon where they
regrouped. The enlarged
PLO presence in Lebanon and the
intensification of fighting on the Israeli–Lebanese border stirred
up internal unrest in Lebanon, where the
PLO fighters added
dramatically to the weight of the Lebanese National Movement, a
coalition of Muslims, Arab nationalists and leftists who opposed the
rightist, Maronite-dominated government. These developments helped
precipitate the Lebanon Civil War, in which the
PLO would ultimately
be expelled to Tunisia.
Battle of Karameh
Palestinian political violence
King Hussein's federation plan
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^ Dunstan, Simon (2003). The
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^ Massad, Joseph Andoni (2001). Colonial Effects: The Making of
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Black September.
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North Yemen-South Yemen Border conflict of 1972
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List of conflicts
List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
World War I
Middle Eastern theatre
Unification of Saudi Arabia
Simko Shikak revolt
Egyptian revolution of 1919
Turkish War of Independence
Mahmud Barzanji revolts
Iraqi revolt against the British
Sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine
Arab separatism in Khuzestan
Great Syrian Revolt
Sheikh Said rebellion
1921 Persian coup d'état
Ahmed Barzani revolt
Saudi–Yemeni War (1934)
Goharshad Mosque rebellion
1935–36 Iraqi Shia revolts
1935 Yazidi revolt
World War II
Italian bombing of Palestine
Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran
1943 Barzani revolt
Kurdish separatism in Iran
Iran crisis of 1946
Egyptian revolution of 1952
1953 Iranian coup d'état
Jebel Akhdar War
Cypriot ethnic crisis
Yemeni–Adenese clan violence
1958 Lebanon crisis
1958 Iraqi revolution
1959 Mosul uprising
First Iraqi-Kurdish War
North Yemen Civil War
Feb. 1963 Iraqi coup
8th March Syrian Revolution
Nov. 1963 Iraqi coup
1964 Hama riot
1966 Syrian coup d'état
Black September in Jordan
1972 North Yemen–South Yemen war
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
Lebanese Civil War
Political violence in Turkey (1976–80)
Islamist uprising in Syria
Consolidation of the Iranian Revolution
1979 Qatif Uprising
Grand Mosque seizure
Sadr uprising (1980)
1980 Turkish coup d'état
Kurdish separatism in Turkey
South Yemen Civil War
1986 Egyptian conscripts riot
1986 Damascus bombings
Abu Nidal's executions
Gulf War (1990–1991)
1991 uprisings in Iraq
Terror campaign in Egypt (1990s)
Yemeni Civil War (1994)
Islamic insurgency in Saudi
Operation Desert Fox
al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen
1999 Shia uprising in Iraq
Balochi insurgency in Iran
2004 al-Qamishli riots
Houthi insurgency in Yemen
Iran–Israel proxy conflict
2006 Lebanon War
Nahr al-Bared fighting
2008 conflict in Lebanon
South Yemen insurgency
2009–10 Iranian election protests
Bahraini uprising of 2011
Insurgency in Egypt (2013–present)
Syrian Civil War
Syrian War spillover in Lebanon
Iraqi insurgency (2011–13)
Iraqi Civil War (2014–present)
Turkish involvement in Syria
This list includes post-Ottoman conflicts (after 1918) of at least 100
Prolonged conflicts are listed in the decade when initiated; ongoing
conflicts are marked italic and conflict with +100,000 kille