More commonly known today as the "Amn al-Ri’asah" (Presidential Security) of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Force 17 has been "officially" dissolved since 1994, but out of the 3,500 members of the Amn al-Ri’asah, the majority are former Force 17 members.


After being expelled from Jordan in 1970 on what was known as Black September, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) had relocated their headquarters to Beirut, Lebanon. This is where various senior officers of the Al-Fatah group (a branch of the PLO) were pulled together to form "Force 17," the personal security force for Yasser Arafat and other senior officers.

The name, Force 17, while sounding like a cheesy TV series, doesn't have a solid origin. There are many claims to how the unit got its name, but none are officially recognized. One source claims that the numbers 1 and 7 were the last digits of the first commander's phone number. Another source claims that a Lebanese security unit called "Squad 16" was constantly harassing the PLO (Squad16++). And yet another version claims they got it from the location of the unit's office in Beirut, which was: 17 Faqahani street.

Even though the Force 17 was founded for the purpose of protection, it soon became one of the PLO's elite fighting units. Some of its new, primary functions were to gather intelligence, and beginning in the 1980's, conduct terrorist attacks which spanned from Israel to Europe. Though, I would like to note that Force 17 played a bigger role in the internal affairs of Palestine; the major player in terrorist activities at that time was the "Western Sector" unit, led by Abu Jihad.

In 1982, suffering an attack on its headquarters by the Israelis, Force 17 and other PLO forces packed their bags and left for Tunisia, where they set up their operations near the central PLO headquarters. For the next 12 years, Force 17 would place terrorist cells, amass weapons and ammunitions, seek out safehouses, terrorize Israelis, and terrorize rival factions in Palestine. These actions stopped in 1994 (rather, they just started again under a new name), when Force 17 was officially dismantled and merged into the Amn al-Ri’asah (Presidential Security). The Amn al-Ri’asah have been recently (2001) linked to various terrorist activities against Israel.

Known Terrorist Activities of Force 17

  • April, 1984 - Wheels were set in motion to expand terrorist activities in Europe. A vast infrastructure of terrorist cells, weapons and ammunition depots were set up around the country. Some of this was exposed in December of the same year when Romanian forces found AK-47s, pistols, and hand grenades at the house of a Force 17 member in Bucharest.

  • September, 1985 - Three Israeli citizens were murdered at the Marina of Larnaka in Cyprus. Two Palestinians and one British mercenary were found on the scene and arrested. They claimed that they were members of Force 17.

  • July, 1987 - Nagy El-Ali was shot and killed on the steps of a Kuwaiti newspaper building in the U.K. Nagy was famous for his political cartoons that ridiculed Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders. A thorough investigation led to the arrest of many Force 17 members. One of the arrestees, Ismail Sawan, had his apartment searched. Officials found weapons, grenades, and 145 kilograms of Semtex plastic explosives.

  • 1998 - Now officially under the name of the "Amn al-Ri’asah" (Presidential Security), there are rumored involvements of terrorism against Palestinian land-dealers who were accused of aiding Israel. In one case, it is reported that a land-dealer was kidnapped, interrogated and killed by officers.

  • October 2000 - An explosive destroyed a Force 17 base in Bethlehem. Palestinian officials claimed that the explosion was a result of a gas leak, but the incident carried all the signs of a "work accident" with an explosive device.

  • January 2001 - The IDF captures six members of Force 17 who were believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least seven Israelis.

  • February 2001 - Masoud Ayad, a senior officer in Force 17, is killed by the IDF after suspected involvement of mortar attacks against IDF installments and Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Leaders of Force 17


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