University rector heaped praise on hang glider ‘martyrs’ who carried out terror attack

Ghassan Abu-Sittah, Glasgow Uni’s recently elected rector, hailed Palestinians who killed six Israeli soldiers in 1987 as ‘heroes’


Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah speaks at a commemoration for PFLP founder Maher Al-Yamani (Photo: Heritage and Culture Forum)

A British-Palestinian doctor elected this week as the rector of the University of Glasgow heaped praise on members of a proscribed terror group who flew into Israel on gliders and murdered six soldiers in a chilling foreshadow of the October 7 attack.

Ghassan Abu-Sittah also shared a PLO poster featuring an armed fighter, and posted an image of masked men holding guns alongside a poem that has been said to embody the spirit of Hamas’s attack against Israel.

The surgeon, who rose to prominence when he was interviewed by the BBC, Sky and CNN while working in Gaza during Israel’s current war against Hamas, has repeatedly praised Palestinian militants.

In a 2019 post to X/Twitter, he wrote: “You have all our loyalty in memory of the two heroes, the martyrs Miloud Ben Lumah and Khaled Aker. They landed in gliders into our occupied territories and killed 30 Zionist soldiers in an hour. Glory to the martyrs.”

The post appears to refer to a 1987 incident dubbed the Night of The Gliders, in which two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) used hang gliders to fly into Israel.

The pair set off from southern Lebanon armed with AK-47 assault rifles, pistols with silencers, and several grenades.

While Aker was blinded by searchlights and shot, Lumah was able to land successfully and attack an army truck. The militant shot and killed its driver and wounded a passenger, before heading into a nearby army encampment, where he fired his AK47 and hurled grenades into tents, killing five more soldiers and wounding seven.

He was then shot and killed himself by an IDF trooper.

In 2014, the PFLP-GC was proscribed in Britain. The organisation, which fought on the side of the Assad regime during the Syrian civil war, has also been designated as a terror group by the United States and the European Union.

In a 2022 X/Twitter post, Abu-Sittah shared a photo of two masked young men holding guns alongside a poem by the late Syrian writer Omar Al-Farra.

"From under your bed I look at you,” it reads. “From among your molars I will show you, from Warda Juri, from the thorn of the cactus figs, from the compound.”

According to news website Arabi 21, activists began circulating the poem following the October 7 attack.

"They said that its words accurately embody what happened by the Palestinian resistance against the occupation forces in Operation ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’,” the site claimed.

Also in 2022, Abu-Sittah shared a Palestinian Liberation Organisation poster featuring a masked fighter.

It proclaimed: “nous vaincrons," or “we shall overcome”. Across the poster, in Arabic, the names of towns and villages across Israel and the Palestinian territories could be seen.

On Thursday, Abu-Sittah was announced as the next rector of the University of Glasgow.

The position, which has often been held by high profile activists, is voted for by students.

Abu-Sittah rose to prominence following the start of Israel’s war against Hamas after he was interviewed by international media organisations while working as a surgeon in Gaza.

Since returning to Britain, he has been hosted in parliament by MPs and given evidence to a Scotland Yard war crimes inquiry.

The JC has previously revealed, however, that Abu-Sittah has also praised a terrorist murderer in a newspaper article, sat beside a notorious terrorist hijacker at a memorial and delivered a tearful eulogy to the founder of a terror group that was later involved in the October 7 atrocities.

Writing for Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar in 2018, Abu-Sittah hailed Ahmad Jarrar, who masterminded the murder of father-of-six Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a drive-by shooting near Nablus, as one of Palestine’s “dearest and best sons” and a “hero”.

The doctor wrote: “The martyrdom of the resistance member Ahmed Nasr Jarrar, the hero of the Nablus operation, at the hands of the Zionist occupation army… like the hundreds of resistance fighters who were martyred at the hands of this satanic alliance, represents a pivotal moment.”

In 2019, Abu-Sittah was pictured sitting next to the notorious hijacker Leila Khaled at a memorial for a leader of terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Maher Al-Yemani.

Glasgow University’s vice chancellor said last week that the institution would investigate the claims.

Abu-Sittah previously told the JC: “While I may in the past have used emotive language at the funeral of a friend or following an extra-judicial killing, I vehemently oppose terrorism, and civilian casualties on all sides. As a surgeon, my vocation is preserving life and I repeat my calls for a sustainable ceasefire and lasting peace.”

His lawyers said that the doctor did not know that Jarrar had been involved in the killing of a rabbi and that he would never condone murder.

Dr Abu Sittah had written the article because the Jarrar was the victim of an extra-judicial Israeli killing and that he should have faced due process instead, they claimed.

His legal team added that Dr Abu Sittah “abhors” anti-Jewish racism and only opposes the IHRA definition because of its “chilling effect on legitimate criticism of Israel’s actions”.

The University of Glasgow previously said: “As has been the case since the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858, the Rector is nominated and elected by registered students and represents them at the University Court, the institution’s governing body.

"Each candidate is subject to an independent nominations process under powers established by the Universities (Scotland) Acts. The University has adhered to this legislation, and the electoral rules established under it, in the conduct of the present elections.

“Ahead of the hustings last week, candidates were also reminded of the responsibilities and duties of the Rector- once elected- including adhering to the Code of Conduct for members of Court and upholding the University’s policies and values with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Ghassan Abu-Sittah said: “I am grateful to the more than 4,000 students who put their faith in me. I intend to be a rector for all students at Glasgow. While I may in the past have used emotive language in the context of a brutal war in my home country, I vehemently oppose terrorism, and civilian casualties on all sides. As a surgeon my vocation is preserving life and I repeat my calls for a sustainable ceasefire and lasting peace.”
His lawyers added, in relation to the 2019 Night of the Gliders tweet, that “Our client does not recognise this post or recall having posted it”.

They also said it refers to a military exercise, the PFLP-GC was not proscribed at the time of the attack, and there is no link between this attack and October 7.
His lawyers said the 2022 Omar Al-Farra tweet was about how Israel is “haunted by its victims” and that it had nothing to do with the October 7 attack.
On the 2022 PLO poster tweet, they said the PLO is not proscribed, has relations with the UK government and is seen as a partner for peace.

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