Leila Khaled

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Leila Khaled in the 70s

Leila Khaled (born April 9, 1944) is a former member of George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), part of the secular, leftwing Palestinian rejectionist front. She is currently a member of the Palestinian National Council

Khaled came to public attention for her role in a hijacking in 1969 and a second attempted one in 1970. The failed attack was one of a number of simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PFLP that triggered the expulsion by King Hussein of Jordan of the PLO from that country, with the loss of between 5,000 and 10,000 Palestinian lives, in what came to be known as Black September.

She is married and lives with her two sons in Jordan.


Early life

Khaled was born in 1944 in Haifa, then part of the British Mandate of Palestine. When the Arabs rejected the 1947 UN partition plan, fighting broke out between the Arabs and Jews, and in 1948 Khaled's family was forced to flee to Lebanon, leaving behind her father, a member of the fedayeen.

In the late 40s, George Habash, then a medical student at the American University of Beirut, started a student movement that in 1958 became the Arab Nationalist Movement, a radical, pan-Arab movement, the Palestinian branch of which became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Khaled was one of the first to join the Arab Nationalist Movement, at the age of 15.

The hijackings

On August 29, 1969 Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Athens, diverting the Boeing 707 to Damascus, where it landed after flying over Haifa, Khaled's birthplace, because she wanted to see it from the air. No one was injured, although the aircraft was blown up. The PFLP leadership had thought that Yitzak Rabin, the Israeli ambassador to the United States would be on board.

On September 6, 1970, Khaled and Patrick Arguello attempted the hijack of El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings — a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PFLP. The attack was foiled when Israeli skymarshals killed Arguello and overpowered Khaled. The pilot diverted the aircraft to London, where Khaled was delivered to Ealing police station. On October 1, the British government released her as part of a prisoner exchange.

Khaled has said in interviews that she developed a fondness for Britain when her first visitor in jail, an immigration officer, wanted to know why she had arrived in the country without a valid visa.

In popular culture

The Doctor Who character Leela was named by writer Chris Boucher after Khaled.


Further reading


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