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The Conflict of 1970

The partnership with the Palestinians desired by King Hussein fell apart in September, 1970. The pervasive and chaotic presence of armed Palestinian fedayeen groups who expected immunity from Jordan’s laws was leading to a state of virtual anarchy throughout the Kingdom. Moderate Palestinian leaders were unable to reign in extremist elements, who ambushed the king’s motorcade twice and perpetrated a series of spectacular hijackings. Forced to respond decisively in order to preserve his country from anarchy, King Hussein ordered the army into action.

The situation prompted different reactions throughout the Arab world. While most leaders privately expressed sympathy with the position of King Hussein, many took a public stance in favor of the fedayeen in order to embellish their credentials as “Arab nationalists.” The conflict reached a crisis point in September when some 200 Syrian tanks, camouflaged rather unconvincingly as Palestinian Liberation Army tanks, crossed into Jordan. The Syrians were bereft of air cover, however, and Jordanian aircraft forced a Syrian retreat within three days. In a brief yet intense campaign ending in July 1971, the Jordanian army put an end to the chaotic actions of these Palestinians guerrillas in Amman.