Arab media reported Sunday morning that Israel assassinated Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar. Several Israeli Air Force missiles struck the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing Kuntar and eight other operatives, late Saturday night, the reports said.
Hezbollah on Sunday morning confirmed that Kuntar was killed in an Israeli airstrike, and alleged that Israel may have coordinated the hit with Syrian rebel “terrorists” operating in the area. The Assad regime also blamed “terrorist groups” for the strike.
“At 10:15 p.m. on Saturday December 19, Zionist warplanes struck a residential building in Jaramana city in Damascus countryside,” Hezbollah said in the statement carried by its Al-Manar news outlet. “The dean of liberated detainees from Israeli prisons, brother Mujahid Samir Kuntar was martyred along with several Syrian citizens in the strike.”
There was no official Israeli confirmation of the attack, although officials expressed satisfaction over his death. Kuntar was with a group of commanders from different terrorist groups that were there planning attacks on Israel.
A Lebanese Druze, Kuntar became infamous for a brutal 1979 raid from Lebanon in which he helped kidnap an Israeli family from Nahariya, then smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl, Einat Haran, with his rifle butt, killing her. Three other Israelis, including her father, Danny Haran, were killed in the attack. Kuntar was 16 at the time, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front.
He spent 29 years in an Israeli prison before being traded to Hezbollah in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. After that, he took on a senior role in the group, was honored by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and helped to organize Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights and elsewhere into terror cells charged with carrying out attacks against Israel.
Reports said that Kuntar was assassinated not as revenge for his past actions, but rather because he was planning fresh attacks against Israel.
Syrian media said that among the dead was also Farhan Shaalan, a commander in the Syrian anti-Israel resistance group founded by Kuntar and others. Those reports said that senior Hezbollah members were also present in the building at the time of the attack.
The Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese Almayadeen outlet reported that Kuntar had an apartment in the building that was targeted and would occasionally stay there. At the time of the attack, he had been in the building for at least 12 hours, the report said.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) December 20, 2015
According to Reuters, the “National Defense Forces” in Jaramana, a militia loyal to the Assad regime, mourned his death. “His body has been sent to a Damascus hospital moments ago,” Reuters quoted the group as saying. Kuntar’s brother Bassam took to Twitter to mourn his death.
At least eight others were said killed in the alleged targeted assassination, including a senior National Defense Forces commander who Israeli media said was himself involved in attacks against Israel.
Reports later Sunday claimed the fatal missiles were fired by Israel from inside Israeli territory in the area of the Sea of Galilee.
The building in which Kuntar was believed to have been residing was “completely destroyed” in the attack, according to initial reports.
Roni Haran, the brother of Danny Haran, told the Ynet news website he “waited for this moment for seven years, since Kuntar was released from prison.”
“Samir Kuntar never regretted his actions, and there is a small consolation in this [his assassination], although it doesn’t take away the pain,” Haran said.
“I hope that this gets the message across that whoever murders Jews in Israel and in the world will end up like Samir Kuntar and the Munich murderers [of Israeli athletes],” he added. “As it stands, in the Middle East, this seems like the only language they understand.”
— Hamosh (@Hamosh84) December 20, 2015
Kuntar was previously reported killed by Israel in July. The report, by Channel 2 and based on Arab sources, turned out to be false.
Five men were killed in that strike, which targeted a car on the Syrian Golan. Three were identified by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as belonging to a Druze militia based in the Syrian Druze village of Hader and loyal to the Assad regime and Hezbollah. The other two men were members of Hezbollah.