Black September in Jordan

Black September in Jordan

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Black September in Jordan

caption=Palestinian fighters after the battle with Jordan forces, September 1970.
place= Jordan
casus= Assassination attempts on King
result= The Cairo Agreement, PLO were driven out to Lebanon
combatant1= flagicon|Palestine Palestine Liberation Organization
combatant2= flagicon|Jordan Jordan
commander1= Yasser Arafat
commander2= King Hussein
casualties3=7,000-8,000 killedMassad, Joseph Andoni. "Colonial Effects: "'The Making of National Identity in Jordan". Page 342.]

September 1970 is known as the Black September (ArB|أيلول الأسود) in Arab history and sometimes is referred to as the "era of regrettable events." It was a month when Hashemite King Hussein of Jordan moved to quash the autonomy of Palestinian organizations and restore the his monarchy's rule over the country. [Shlaim, Avi (2007) "Lion of Jordan; The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace" ISBN 978-0-713-99777-4 pp 301-302] The violence resulted in the deaths of 7,000 to 8,000 people. Armed conflict lasted until July 1971 with the expulsion of the PLO and thousands of Palestinian fighters to Lebanon.


Following Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Fatah faction of the PLO was fearful that King Hussein would sell out the Palestinians at the conference table and resumed guerrilla raids against Israel, mounting the raids from bases in the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan. Fatah were gaining volunteers from within Palestinian and non-Palestinian communities where the conflict was seen as one between the oppressed and an oppressive, colonist state. [Shlaim, Avi (2007) Lion of Jordan; The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace ISBN 978-0-713-99777-4 p 275] Palestinian guerrilla organizations received support from within Jordanian society. Wasfi Tall, a member of the Jordanian Royal Consultative Committee, believed that Israel had no intention of withdrawing from the recently occupied West Bank or in seeking a political settlement with the Arab States. Due to an internal split within the Jordanian government, many of King Hussein’s orders were not obeyed. Contrary to Hussein’s commands, many Jordanian commanders along the Israel/Jordanian border started to give the Palestinian guerrillas passive assistance. [Shlaim, Avi (2007) Lion of Jordan; The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace ISBN 978-0-713-99777-4 p 276] The Palestinian section of Jordanian society augmented by displaced Palestinians constituted a large internal population of Jordan, and King Hussein feared an independent West Bank under PLO administration would threaten the autonomy of his Hashemite kingdom. [Kissinger, Henry (1999) "Years of Renewal" Phoenix press ISBN 1-84212-042-5 p 1028] [ [ 2006: The World Fact Book: Jordan] (CIA)] The Palestinian factions were supported by many Arab regimes, most notably Egypt's President Nasser, who gave political support; and Saudi Arabia, who gave financial support.Fact|date=October 2008 Israel was repeatedly hit with cross-border attacks by Palestinian fedayeen guerrillasFact|date=October 2008 and these usually drew bloody reprisals that killed and injured Jordanians [] . The Palestinian nationalist organization Fatah had been organizing such attacks since January 1965, but received much broader support following the 1967 defeat.Fact|date=October 2008

Battle of Karameh

The Israel Defense Forces entered the village of Karameh on March 21 1968. [ [,.,.l=/news/campaigns/middle_east/xmid68.xml 1968: Karameh and the Palestinian revolt] (Telegraph)] The Israelis, who aimed to destroy Fatah in their assault, were unsuccessful and were forced to withdraw. Arafat managed to leave Karameh at night after being informed of the impending attack. King Hussein gave orders to the Jordanian forces not to intervene but Jordanian General Mash'hor Haditha and some Jordanian officers ignored their king's orders and engaged the battle. The arrival of Jordanian troops in full-force shifted the tide of the battle and managed to inflict serious damage on the IDF. (According to the Israelis) Israeli casualties from the battle were 28 soldiers killed and 69 wounded, with other losses including the destruction of four tanks, three half tracks, two armoured cars, and an airplane shot down by Jordanian forces. (According to the Jordanians) Israeli casualties were 250 soldiers killed and 50 wounded, 27 tanks, 24 armored cars, 37 camions. About 100 Palestinian fedayeen were killed in the battle, with another 100 wounded and 120 - 150 captured. The Jordanians sustained 61 fatalities, 108 wounded, and the destruction of thirteen tanks. Although the Jordanian Army had been decisive, the incident was a public relations coup for the PLO and Arafat. The Karameh battle boosted Palestinian morale and gave the PLO additional prestige within the Arab community. [ [ Al] ]

Yasser Arafat, claimed this as a victory (in Arabic, "karameh" means "dignity") and quickly became a national hero portrayed as one who dared to confront Israel. Masses of young Arabs joined the ranks of his group Fatah. Under pressure, Ahmad Shukeiri resigned from the PLO leadership and in July 1969, Fatah joined and soon controlled the PLO. The fierce Palestinian guerrilla fighting and the Jordanian Artillery bombardment forced the IDF withdrawal and gave the Arabs an important moral win as Israel was calling their army the indomitable army and this was its first defeat at the hands of Arabs after the two wins in 1948 and 1967.

even-point agreement

In Palestinian enclaves and refugee camps in Jordan, the Jordanian Police and army were losing their authority. Uniformed PLO militants openly carried weapons, set up checkpoints and attempted to extort "taxes." During the November 1968 negotiations, a seven-point agreement was reached between King Hussein and Palestinian organizations:
* Members of these organizations were forbidden from walking around cities armed and in uniform
* They were forbidden from stopping civilian vehicles in order to conduct searches
* They were forbidden from competing with the Jordanian Army for recruits
* They were required to carry Jordanian identity papers
* Their vehicles were required to bear Jordanian license plates
* Crimes committed by members of the Palestinian organizations would be investigated by the Jordanian authorities
* Disputes between the Palestinian organizations and the government would be settled by a joint council of representatives of the king and of the PLO.

The PLO, reneging on this agreement, acted as a state within a state in Jordan. Between mid-1968 and the end of 1969, no fewer than five hundred violent clashes occurred between the Palestinian guerrillas and Jordanian security forces. Acts of violence against civilians and kidnappings frequently took place. Chief of the Jordanian royal court (and subsequently a Prime Minister) Zaid al-Rifai claimed that "the fedayeen killed a soldier, beheaded him, and played soccer with his head in the area where he used to live." ["Arafat's War" by Efraim Karsh, p.28]

Many elements in the PLO extorted money from merchants at gunpoint under the claim that they were donations to the Palestinian cause. Jordanian security forces would typically respond by rounding them up and sending them to the front. Outbreaks of violence however were continuously on the rise. It was believed that as long as both parties maintained the condition that they would not enter or remain in the capital a large scale clash could have been avoided.Dubious|date=March 2008

The PLO also continued attacking Israel from Jordanian territory without regard to Jordanian authority. Heavy Israeli reprisals resulted in high Jordanian civilian and military casualties. Jordanian soldiers who were on weekend leave were continuously attacked by Palestinian guerrillas. Jordanian soldiers were confined to their barracks.

Ten-point edict

King Hussein visited U.S. President Richard Nixon, and the Egyptian President Nasser in February 1970. Upon his return, King Hussein published a ten-point edict, restricting activities of the Palestinian organizations. On February 11, fighting broke out between Jordanian security forces and the Palestinian groups in the streets of Amman, resulting in about 300 deaths. Trying to prevent the violence spinning out of control, King Hussein announced "We are all fedayeen" and fired the interior minister who was hostile towards the Palestinians.

Armed Palestinians set up a parallel system of visa controls, customs checks and checkpoints in Jordanian cities and added more tensions to already polarized Jordanian society and the army.

In July, Egypt and Jordan accepted the U.S.-backed Rogers Plan that called for a cease fire in the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt and for Israel's negotiated withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, according to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, but the plan mentioned the West Bank to be under King Hussein's authority and that was unacceptable for the more radical organizations; the PLO, George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Naif Hawatmeh's Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) opposed the plan, criticized and scandalized Nasser. Thus, the PLO lost the good relations with Nasser and his protection. Reportedly, the plan was a trap conceived to destroy PLO's relations with Nasser, and it had never been implemented. [] As a result, King Hussein started his military campaign against the PLO. Between February and June 1970, about a thousand lives were lost in Jordan alone due to the conflict. The more radical organizations in the PLO decided to undermine Hussein's pro-Western regime.

Events of September 1970

Aircraft hijackings

On September 1 1970, several attempts to assassinate the king failed. On September 7, in the series of Dawson's Field hijackings, three planes were hijacked by PFLP: a SwissAir and a TWA that were landed in Azraq area and a Pan Am that was landed in Cairo. Then on September 9, a BOAC flight from Bahrain was also hijacked to Zarqa. The PFLP announced that the hijackings were intended "to pay special attention to the Palestinian problem". After all hostages were removed, the planes were dramatically blown up in front of TV cameras. Directly confronting and angering the King, the rebels declared the Irbid area a "liberated region."

Jordanian army attacks

On September 15, King Hussein declared martial law. The next day, Jordanian tanks (the 60th Armored Brigade) attacked the headquarters of Palestinian organizations in Amman; the army also attacked camps in Irbid, Salt, Sweileh,Baq'aa, Wehdat and Zarqa. Then the head of Pakistani training mission to Jordan, Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (later Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan), took command of the 2nd division. [] [] In addition, the Iraqi army in Jordan after 1967 war serving as a reserve forces supported the Jordanian army. []

Arafat later claim that the Jordanian army killed between 10,000 and 25,000 Palestinians, although more conservative estimates put the number between 1000 and 2000. [ ] [ ]

Hostage David Raab described the initial military actions in Black September this way:

:"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 stopped."

The armored troops were inefficient in narrow city streets and thus the Jordanian army conducted house to house sweeps for Palestinian fighters and got immersed in heavy urban warfare with the inexperienced and undisciplined Palestinian fighters.

Amman experienced the heaviest fighting in the Black September uprising. The American backed Jordanian army shelled the PLO headquarters in Amman and battled with Palestinian guerillas in the narrow streets of the capital. Syrian tanks rolled across the Yarmouk River into northern Jordan and began shelling Amman and other northern urban areas. Outdated missiles fired by the PLO struck Amman for more than a week. Jordanian infantry pushed the Palestinian Fedayeen out of Amman after weeks of bitter fighting.

PLA intervention attempt

On September 18, Syria, through the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) branch, whose headquarters were located in Damascus and which was very close to the Syrian regime, tried to intervene on behalf of the Palestinian guerrillas. The PLA size was equivalent to a division and was met by the 40th Armored Brigade of the Jordanian army.

Syrian involvement

On September 18, some 300 Syrian tanks rolled into Jordan. Hussein's army seemed incapable of checking the Syrian drive.

As King Hussein dealt with threats by both Palestinian refugees in his country and Syrian military forces crossing Jordan's border, the king asked "the United States and Great Britain to intervene in the war in Jordan, asking the United States, in fact, to attack Syria, and some transcripts of diplomatic communiques show that Hussein requested Israeli intervention against Syria. " Naftali said. "Syria had invaded Jordan and the Jordanian king, facing what he felt was a military rout, said please help us in any way possible." []

A telegram indicates that Hussein himself called a U.S. official at 3 a.m. to ask for American or British help. "Situation deteriorating dangerously following Syrian massive invasion...," the document said. "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 imperative." []

Israel, which found the move undesirable, performed mock air strikes on the Syrian column at the Americans' request. Possibly alarmed at the prospect of an armed conflict with Israel, Syria's president at the time, Nureddin Atassi, ordered a hasty retreat. Its involvement at the time remained a subject for historical debate. Hafez al-Assad, who was the Syrian defense minister in September 1970, told his biographer, Patrick Seale, that Syria's intention in invading northern Jordan was only to protect the Palestinians from a massacre.

Whatever the case, the swift Syrian withdrawal was a severe blow to Palestinian hopes. Jordanian armored forces steadily pounded their headquarters in Amman, and threatened to break them in other regions of the kingdom as well. The Palestinians agreed to a cease-fire. Hussein and Arafat attended the meeting of leaders of Arab countries in Cairo, where Arafat won a diplomatic victory. On September 27, Hussein was forced to sign an agreement which preserved the right of the Palestinian organizations to operate in Jordan. For Jordan, it was humiliating that the agreement treated both sides to the conflict as equals.

U.S. and U.S.S.R. involvement

The U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet positioned off the coast of Israel, near Jordan. At the beginning of September, U.S. President Nixon sent an additional carrier task force and the Marine assault ship USS Guam to supplement the 6th Fleet. Two Royal Navy aircraft carriers arrived in the area of Malta as well. By 19-20 September, U.S. Navy concentrated a powerful force in the Eastern Mediterranean. According to the official U.S. version the goal was to protect American interests in the region and to respond to the capture of about 50 U.S., U.K. and FRG citizens in Jordan by Palestinian forces.

However, the Soviets claim that the goal of U.S. shock grouping was taking control of the west bank of the Jordan river to support the upcoming Israel invasion into the neighboring territories of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In order to protect Soviet interests in the area and to assist Syria, 5th Mediterranean Squadron of the Soviet Navy was increased to about 20 surface warships and 6 submarines. By mutual agreement with Syria, Soviet landing troops were ordered to respond to the expected U.S. landing and assist in demarcation of the Syria national boundaries with Israel.

On 19-20 September, a particularly busy time of confrontation, U.S. landing ships entered the Haifa outer harbour and prepared for disembarking: U.S. marines stood on the deck in full gear ready for landing in helicopters. However, after the Soviet landing ships ran for Tartus, the preparations for disembarking were rolled back.

U.S. Forces remained on alert in the area throughout September and October. However, the tensions gradually decreased starting from 23–24 September. [ Советский десант готовился к высадке в Сирию.] ru icon]

Hussein-Arafat Cairo agreement

Meanwhile, both Hussein and Arafat attended the meeting of leaders of Arab countries in Cairo and on September 27. Hussein signed an agreement that treated both sides as equals and acknowledged the right of the Palestinian organizations to operate in Jordan, but which required them to leave the cities and stay in the fronts.

On September 28, Egypt's Nasser died of a sudden heart attack. As a result the PLO lost his protection, and King Hussein continued the attack.


Estimates of the number of the people killed in the ten days of "Black September" range from three thousand to more than five thousand, although exact numbers are unknown. The Palestinian death toll in 11 days of fighting was estimated at 3,400, though Arafat claimed that 20,000 had been killed. [Bailey, p.59, The Making of a War, John Bulloch, p.67] The Western reporters were concentrated at the Intercontinental Hotel, away from the action. Nasser's state-controlled "Voice of the Arabs" from Cairo reported genocide.

Events after September

The situation in Syria became unstable and soon Hafez al-Assad became the ruler of Syria in a coup d'état.

On October 31, Arafat, whose position was weakened, had to sign another agreement (similar to one of November 1968) that returned control of Jordan to the King, requiring the dismantlement of Palestinian militant bases and banning their members from carrying unconcealed weapons. At a meeting of the Palestinian National Council that followed, both PFLP and DFLP groups refused to accept this agreement and instead, accepted the proposal that Jordan would be a part of a Palestinian state to replace both Jordan and Israel.

The violations continued and on November 9, Jordanian prime minister Wasfi al-Tal signed an order to confiscate illegal weapons. By January 1971, the army strengthened its control over the cities. Another agreement regarding surrendering weapons was signed and broken. After the discovery of illegal arms warehouse in Irbid in the spring, the army placed a curfew and began arresting the rebels.On June 5, several leading Palestinian organizations including Arafat's Fatah, called on "Radio Baghdad" to overthrow King Hussein who was regarded as a "puppet separatist authority."

The army regained control over the remaining PLO strongholds in the mountainous cities of Jerash and Ajlun.


The number of casualties in what resembled a civil war is estimated at tens of thousands, and both sides were involved in intentional killing of civilians. It was a turning point for Jordanian identity, as the kingdom embarked on the program of "Jordanization" of the society.

Palestinian militants were driven to Southern Lebanon as a result of the Cairo Agreement, which helped precipitate the Lebanon Civil War.

The group Black September, later responsible for the Munich massacre, was established by Fatah members. On November 28 1971, in Cairo, four of its members assassinated Wasfi al-Tal.

Ma'an (Arabic) reports that a series of articles being authored by longtime Arafat aide Marwan Kanafani in Egypt's Al Ahram will say that it was Yasir Arafat himself who created the Black September organization in 1970.

Black September was behind many of the highest-profile terror attacks in the early 1970s, including the murder of Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi Tel, the Munich Olympic massacre, the May 1972 hijacking of a Belgian airliner from Vienna, dozens of letter bombs including one that killed an Israeli politician in London, and the murder of two US diplomats in Khartoum.

The PLO always used Black September for plausible deniability, claiming that the deadliest BSO attacks had nothing to do with them. Although many historians had already made the connection between the two groups, the US State Department wrote a confidential memo in 1973 (released in 1981) showing connections between the groups, and the State Department also had linked Fatah and Arafat directly to the Khartoum murders, this appears to be the first confirmation by someone in Arafat's inner circle that it was Arafat himself who was the founder of Black September and personally in charge of operations.



* Bregman, Ahron (2002). "Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947". London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28716-2
* Kissinger, Henry (1999) "Years of Renewal" Phoenix press ISBN 1-84212-042-5
* Raab, David (2007). "Terror in Black September: The First Eyewitness Account of the Infamous 1970 Hijackings". New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-8420-4
* Shlaim, Avi (2007) Lion of Jordan; The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace ISBN 978-0-713-99777-4

External links

* [ Jordanian Removal of the PLO] (
* [ Terror in Black September] (David Raab)
* [ Hussein - the Guerrilla Crisis] Country Studies at the U.S. Library of Congress, alt. []
* [ Black September: Tough negotiations] 1 January 2001 (BBC)
* [ 1970 - Black September] (HistoryCentral)
* [ Black September, The PLO's attempt to take over Jordan in 1970] (Uria Shavit, Ha'aretz Newspaper, May 28 2002)
* [ Why did Jordan expel the PLO in 1970?] (
* [ Black September in Jordan 1970-1971] (
* [ Hussein of Jordan: The Bloody King of Black September] (Revolutionary Worker #995, February 21 1999)
* [ Impact of 'Black September' on American strategy in the Middle East] (especially Chapter 3)"'
* [ Уроки черного сентября.] Дан Михаэль. ru icon

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